Complex networks of parasites and pollinators: moving towards a healthy balance.
Parasites are viewed as a major threat to wild pollinator health. While this may be true for epidemics driven by parasite spillover from managed or invasive species, the picture is more complex for endemic parasites. Wild pollinator species host and share a species-rich, generalist parasite community. In contrast to the negative health impacts that these parasites impose on individual hosts, at a community level they may act to reduce competition from common and abundant pollinator species. By providing rare species with space in which to exist, this will act to support and maintain a diverse and thus healthier pollinator community. At this level, and perhaps paraxodically, parasites may be good for pollinators. This stands in clear contrast to the obvious negative impacts of epidemic and spillover parasites on wild pollinator communities. Research into floral resources that control parasites could be best employed to help design landscapes that provide pollinators with the opportunity to moderate their parasite community, rather than attempting to eliminate specific parasites from wild pollinator communities.