Research links mite to deadly honey bee virus

06/08/2012 12:18:00 PM
By Vicky Boyd, Editor

A group of international researchers has linked a parasitic mite to the probable death of millions of honey bee colonies worldwide.

The research involved the varroa mite and the deformed wing virus it carries, according to a news release.

The project, conducted in Hawaii, involved researchers from the University of Sheffield, England; Marine Biological Association, Plymouth, England; Food and Environment Research Agency, London, England; and University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Courtesy Agricultural Research ServiceThe pinhead-sized varroa mite carries the deformed wing virus, which becomes more virulent in the mite.The results were published in the journal Science.

Researchers found that varroa mite caused deformed wing virus to increase its frequency among honey bee colonies from 10 percent to 100 percent.

At the same time, there was a million-fold increase in the number of virus particles and a reduction in virus diversity.

The result was a single, but highly virulent, strain of deformed wing virus.

As few as 2,000 mites could cause a colony of 30,000 honey bees to die, according to the release.

Deformed wing virus is transmitted naturally among bees through feeding and sex.

But the mites change the virus, making it more deadly.

The mite and new virulent strain already are causing problems for beekeepers in Hawaii.

And the researchers say they believe it is a glimpse of what may happen elsewhere in the world where varroa mite are present.

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June, 09, 2012 at 06:40 AM

Stop treating bees with chemicals and antibiotics to allow them to evolve with varroa. By continually dumping more and more chemicals into hives, we are lowering their resistance to varroa and in turn lowering the immune systems of bees.

Montana  |  June, 14, 2012 at 05:04 PM

If it was that simple billiam researchers would have figured it out long ago. There already are varroa resistance stains of honey bees from Asia that have been slowly bred into the US population.

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