Gamma irradiation is known to inactivate various pathogens that negatively affect honey bee health. Bee pathogens, such as Deformed wing virus
(DWV) and Nosema
spp., have a deleterious impact on foraging activities and bee survival, and have been detected in combs. In this study, we assessed the effects of gamma irradiation on the flight activities, pathogen load, and survival of two honey bee stocks that were reared in irradiated and non-irradiated combs. Overall, bee genotype influenced the average number of daily flights, the total number of foraging flights, and total flight duration, in which the Russian honey bees outperformed the Italian honey bees. Exposing combs to gamma irradiation only affected the age at first flight, with worker bees that were reared in non-irradiated combs foraging prematurely compared to those reared in irradiated combs. Precocious foraging may be associated with the higher levels of DWV in bees reared in non-irradiated combs and also with the lower amount of pollen stores in colonies that used non-irradiated combs. These data suggest that gamma irradiation of combs can help minimize the negative impact of DWV in honey bees. Since colonies with irradiated combs stored more pollen than those with non-irradiated combs, crop pollination efficiency may be further improved when mite-resistant stocks are used, since they performed more flights and had longer flight durations.
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