Once a year, beekeepers from around the U.S. converge on California's central valley
to pollinate more than 800,000 acres of almond trees. These migratory bee colonies are an important part of food production, where the bees often travel long distances and help pollinate other fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, plums, cherries, and apples.
But, when ~60% of all U.S. honeybees are brought into one place to rub knees with other bees, are they also acquiring and spreading diseases? This experiment from the University of Vermont simulated this by comparing bees trucked from North Carolina to California with stationary colonies that didn't travel. 78 backers contributed funds to test for pathogens and colony strength (brood, weight, and pollen stores) before and after the migration.
Compared to their stationary counterparts, migratory bee colonies returned from California pollination trips with fewer bees and higher virus loads (e.g. black queen cell virus
). These results indicate that migratory conditions have variable effects on honey bee health, including some important negative impacts. Check out the sweet results just published open-access in PeerJ.