Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Problem of Disease When Domesticating Bees

Author
item James, Rosalind

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: October 1, 2007
Publication Date: August 1, 2008
Citation: James, R.R. 2008. The Problem of Disease When Domesticating Bees. Book Chapter. Bee Pollination in Agricultural Ecosystems. Oxford University Press.

Interpretive Summary: As with all other biota on Earth, bees are susceptible to diseases, and when we domesticate them, we increase their population densities to suit our needs. This increase in population density makes them more susceptible to disease, and it also brings the natural diseases to our attention when we see them for the first time. Thus, when we domesticate bees, we need to pay attention to disease control. Most examples of bee disease control are known from honey bees because of our long history of managing this bee. Most modern attempts at honey bee disease control have centered on either the use of drug treatments or destroying entire colonies and all the associated hive equipment. However, it is clear that disease control strategies are more likely to be successful when the disease cycle within the managed system is understood and taken into account. As with the discovery and implementation of integrated pest management systems for pest control in crops, we are likely to obtain the most utilitarian disease control if we avoid thinking that the only means to control disease is to be sanitary and destroy infected colonies. We must make an attempt to understand how the disease is spread, and then identify that time and place in our management system for which the pathogen is most vulnerable, then target our treatments towards that stage, be the treatments chemical, biological, genetic, or otherwise.

Technical Abstract: As with all other biota on Earth, bees are susceptible to diseases, and when we domesticate them, we increase their population densities to suit our needs. This increase in population density makes them more susceptible to disease, and it also brings the natural diseases to our attention when we see them for the first time. Thus, when we domesticate bees, we need to pay attention to disease control. Most examples of bee disease control are known from honey bees because of our long history of managing this bee. Most modern attempts at honey bee disease control have centered on either the use of drug treatments or destroying entire colonies and all the associated hive equipment. However, it is clear that disease control strategies are more likely to be successful when the disease cycle within the managed system is understood and taken into account. As with the discovery and implementation of integrated pest management systems for pest control in crops, we are likely to obtain the most utilitarian disease control if we avoid thinking that the only means to control disease is to be sanitary and destroy infected colonies. We must make an attempt to understand how the disease is spread, and then identify that time and place in our management system for which the pathogen is most vulnerable, then target our treatments towards that stage, be the treatments chemical, biological, genetic, or otherwise.

Last Modified: 10/22/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page