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October 03, 2019

Dr. Samantha Alger New Study Links Bumblebee Decline to a Virus

Dr. Samantha Alger, 2014 recipient of The Garden Club of America Board of Associates Centennial Pollinator Fellow, credits the early support she received from the GCA for jump-starting her career and feels the grant was integral to a recent project she led. Dr. Alger’s recent study, published on June 26, 2019, in the journal PLOS ONE, states that the decline of many native bumblebee species has been linked to an increased prevalence of pathogens caused by spillovers from managed honeybees in apiaries. 

Virus from commercial honeybees spreads through shared flowers. The research team explored 19 sites across Vermont. They discovered that two well-known RNA viruses found in honeybees were higher in bumblebees collected less than 300 meters from commercial beehives than from sites without an apiary nearby. Most impressive, the team detected viruses on 19% of the flowers they sampled from sites near apiaries. In contrast, the scientists did not detect any bee viruses on flowers sampled more than one kilometer from commercial beehives.

Alger says “This research suggests that we might want to keep apiaries outside of areas where there are vulnerable pollinator species, especially because we have so much more to learn about what these viruses are actually doing to bumblebees.” 

Honeybees are an important part of modern agriculture, but “they’re non-native. “A huge misconception … is that honeybees serve as the iconic image for pollinator conservation.”

Since the release of Dr. Alger’s study, she has received considerable and notable international press coverage, including in the UK Independent, PBS Newshour, the UK Daily Mail and Science Daily, as well as the University of Vermont ENEWS.

Samantha Alger received her Ph.D. in Biology at the University of Vermont in 2018. This summer she taught the first beekeeping course offered by UVM in fifty years, Introduction to Beekeeping PSS 195.



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How I Spent My Summer – Saving The Redwoods
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The State of Ohio Designates April as “Ohio Native Plant Month”
GCA club member Nancy Linz coordinated this state-wide support.
September 24, 2019


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