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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Poplarville, Mississippi » Southern Horticultural Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #380920

Research Project: Management of Diseases, Pests, and Pollinators of Horticultural Crops

Location: Southern Horticultural Research

Title: Disease-Mitigating Innovations for the Pollination Service Industry: Challenges and Opportunities.

Author
item Goblirsch, Michael
item EAKINS, JOHN - Athlone Institute Of Technology
item ROWAN, NEIL - Athlone Institute Of Technology

Submitted to: Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/8/2021
Publication Date: 4/22/2021
Citation: Goblirsch, M.J., Eakins, J., Rowan, N. 2021. Disease-Mitigating Innovations for the Pollination Service Industry: Challenges and Opportunities.. Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health. S2468-5844(21)00037-4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coesh.2021.100265.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coesh.2021.100265

Interpretive Summary: Bees are important pollinators of flowering plants. Increases in crop yield and quality due to bee pollination leads to significant human associated gains in income, nutrition, and ecosystem health. However, many bee pollinators are in decline or facing health challenges. Drivers of failing bee health and decline have been identified and pathogens are a leading contributor. Pathogens are prevalent and found at high levels in colonies of honey bees and bumblebees. Here, we focus on one critical control point for reducing pathogen transmission, honey bee-collected pollen. Honey bee-collected pollen is used as a nutritional source for commercially produced bumblebees. Currently, the primary means of safely sterilizing honey bee-collected pollen is by exposure to gamma irradiation, but this treatment has its limitations, including access to radiation source and limited versatility of treatment. We suggest exploration of other technologies, such as those used in the medical device and food production sectors for their potential to provide effective control, while imposing fewer limitations on use. Demonstrating inactivation of pathogens with alternative sterilization technologies would mitigate the effects of infectious diseases on stocks of commercial bumblebees. The impact of irradiation on nutritional quality of pollen has yet to be determined in terms of alternation for pollination industry.

Technical Abstract: Bees are important pollinators of cultivated and wild flowering plants that humans and other organisms utilize for food, fiber, medicine, and shelter. Increases in crop yield and quality due to bee pollination leads to significant human associated gains in income, nutrition, and ecosystem health. However, many bee species are in decline or facing health challenges, potentially threatening the delivery of pollination services. Drivers of failing bee health and decline have been identified, with infectious pathogens among the leading contributors. Pathogens are prevalent and found at high levels in managed colonies of honey bees and bumblebees. Here, we focus on one critical control point for mitigation of pathogen transmission, honey bee-collected pollen, which is used as a nutritional source for commercially produced bumblebees. Currently, the primary means of safely sterilizing honey bee-collected pollen is by exposure to high energy ionizing radiation. Gamma irradiation has its limitations, including offsite access to 60Co supply and limited versatility of treatments. We suggest exploration of other technologies, such as those used in the medical device and food production sectors for their potential to provide efficacious pathogen control, while imposing fewer limitations on use. Demonstrating inactivation of pathogens with alternative sterilization technologies would mitigate the effects of infectious diseases on stocks of commercial bumblebees and could help reduce transmission via sharing of floral resources among wild and managed bee species. The impact of irradiation on macro- and micronutrients in pollen has yet to be determined in terms of alternation for pollination industry.