Tayside and Central Scotland

Bee health study at Dundee University to be extended

Bee!
Image caption The scheme will screen for parasites and map honeybee populations

Researchers at the University of Dundee are to extend a study looking at the health of bee populations across the country.

A team from the university has been working with beekeepers to identify the presence of an important bee parasite in the UK for the first time.

It has now been awarded funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSCR).

The researchers aim to paint a detailed picture of bee disease in Scotland.

Last year beekeepers from around Scotland worked with Dr Chris Connolly from the university to identify possible spores from Nosema ceranae, which were later confirmed as such by DNA sequencing.

The parasite was previously not thought to be widespread in the UK, and has been implicated in causing disease and colony failure in bees.

Dr Connolly said: "To our amazement, we found that Nosema ceranae is actually not just present in Scotland, but is widespread.

"Some studies have suggested that Nosema ceranae leads to a dwindling disease and colony failure. Therefore it is critical to monitor its presence and association with colony losses in the UK."

Disease threats

The BBSCR funding will allow the scheme to be extended to include screening for other parasites and map honeybee populations in Scotland, with help from Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (Sasa).

Dr Connolly added: "Once this country-wide screening is in place, further training by Sasa will be provided to enable beekeepers to screen for all disease threats to Scotland's honeybees.

"Once this large disease dataset is combined with information on local land use, pesticide exposure and honeybee colony failures it will become possible to report on the relative impact of all threats to the decline of our honeybees."

Phil McAnespie, Scottish Beekeepers Association president, said: "The SBA is delighted to have the opportunity of being involved in this very important Nosema species project.

"The importance of this scientific research cannot be overstated and I know will advance our knowledge of the spread of this honeybee pathogen and its implication for our colonies in Scotland."

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