Bee deaths may stem from virus: NY Times (with commentary from Les Eccles, TTP)

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Note: For the interest of readers who are wishing more insight into this topic, following is an analysis of this research from OBA Tech Transfer Lead, Les Eccles

Re:  Systemic Spread and Propagation of a Plant-Pathogenic Virus in European Honeybees, Apis mellifera – Ji Lian Li

Media reports on the significance of a recent scientific publication that has discovered an important virus that infects plants, has now been found to infect and replicate in honey bees and states that it could be a cause of CCD, is a perfect example of using the “sexiness” of honey bees and CCD to promote research with very little evidence to show it being new or relevant in the struggle to understand factors that affect honey bee health.

Viruses are a relatively new study in the field of honey bees.  Although we have known viruses infect colonies for quite some time, technology has only recently allowed us to identify and quantify a wide range of viruses present in honey bee colonies.  It is important however to remember that many of these viruses have been present in honey bees for many year, hundreds maybe even thousands of years, we don’t really know.  It was only with the introduction of varroa mites as a vector for viruses that they began to play a significant role in honey bee health.

We know some viruses are more problematic than others.  Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV) and Sacbrood Virus (SBV) are identified as the more important causing colonies to weaken and even collapse.  The discovery of another virus such as the tobacco ringspot virus (TRSV) does not show any evidence that it contributes to decline in honey bee health.  The discovery of the virus alone is not evidence that it is a new virus, but only that it has been identified.  What it does show is that viruses have novel abilities to infect other hosts, multiply and spread, perhaps back to their original plant host; but otherwise not interfering with honey bee health.

The paper does reconfirm that DWV and BQCV were the most highly present viruses in the study and directly linked to weak and collapsing colonies.  And that varroa mites were the most likely vector of their spread.  Once again justifying that control of varroa is the best way to control virus spread in honey bees.