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Data from: Disease where you dine: plant species and floral traits associated with pathogen transmission in bumble bees

Cite this dataset

Adler, Lynn S. et al. (2019). Data from: Disease where you dine: plant species and floral traits associated with pathogen transmission in bumble bees [Dataset]. Dryad.


Hotspots of disease transmission can strongly influence pathogen spread. Bee pathogens may be transmitted via shared floral use, but the role of plant species and floral trait variation in shaping transmission dynamics is almost entirely unexplored. Given the importance of pathogens for the decline of several bee species, understanding whether and how plant species and floral traits affect transmission could give us important tools for predicting which plant species may be hotspots for disease spread. We assessed variation in transmission via susceptibility (probability of infection) and mean intensity (cell count of infected bees) of the trypanosomatid gut pathogen Crithidia bombi to uninfected Bombus impatiens workers foraging on 14 plant species, and assessed the role of floral traits, bee size and foraging behavior on transmission. We also conducted a manipulative experiment to determine how the number of open flowers affected transmission on three plant species, Penstemon digitalis, Monarda didyma, and Lythrum salicaria. Plant species differed fourfold in the overall mean abundance of Crithidia in foraging bumble bees (mean including infected and uninfected bees). Across plant species, bee susceptibility and mean intensity increased with the number of reproductive structures per inflorescence (buds, flowers and fruits); smaller bees and those that foraged longer were also more susceptible. Trait-based models were as good or better than species-based models at predicting susceptibility and mean intensity based on AIC values. Surprisingly, floral size and morphology did not significantly predict transmission across species. In the manipulative experiment, more open flowers increased mean pathogen abundance fourfold in Monarda, but had no effect in the other two plant species. Our results suggest that variation among plant species, through their influence on pathogen transmission, may shape bee disease dynamics. Given widespread investment in pollinator-friendly plantings to support pollinators, understanding how plant species affect disease transmission is important for recommending plant species that optimize pollinator health.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: NSF-DEB-1258096


42˚ 28.6’ N
72˚ 34.8’ W