Press Release - Understanding the causes of colony losses

publication date: Jun 11, 2012
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 Press Release

[11/6/12]

Understanding the causes of colony losses

Scientists agree that the parasitic mite Varroa is one of the main threats facing honey bees worldwide. It has been known for some time that the mite kills bees by transmitting virus diseases in much the same way as a mosquito transmits malaria. Now scientists have identified a virulent strain of virus associated with those bee colonies which die.


Dr Stephen Martin of the University of Sheffield who led the work says: “Just 2,000 mites can cause a colony containing 30,000 bees to die. The mite is the biggest problem worldwide for bee keepers; it is responsible for millions of colonies being killed. Understanding the changing viral landscape that honey bees and other pollinators face will help beekeepers and conservationists worldwide protect these important insects. We have discovered what happens at the start of an infection. The goal is to understand how the infection comes about so that we can control it".


Working in Hawaii, where the mite has only recently become established, the scientists showed how the Varroa mite caused deformed wing virus (DWV), a known viral pathogen, to increase its frequency amongst honey bee colonies from 10 per cent to 100 per cent. This change was accompanied by a million-fold increase in the number of virus particles infecting each honey bee and a massive reduction in viral strain diversity leading to the emergence of a single virulent DWV strain.


IBRA Science Director and JAR Senior Editor Norman Carreck says: “This is important work which uses cutting edge molecular techniques to improve our understanding of how the mite kills honey bee colonies. Only by fully understanding the biology of the mite and the viruses that it transmits can we develop effective strategies for its control”.


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 Press Release


 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT

Norman Carreck, Scientific Director, IBRA +44 (0)791 8670169 Email: carrecknl@ibra.org.uk

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS:-

1. The article “Global honey bee viral landscape altered by a parasitic mite” is available at:-

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6086/1304.abstract


2. The work was carried out by researchers from the University of Sheffield, the UK Marine Biological Association, the UK Food and Environment Research Agency and the University of Hawaii, led by IBRA Council Member Dr Stephen Martin:-

http://www.shef.ac.uk/aps/staff-and-students/acadstaff/martin-stephen


3. The book “Varroa - still a problem in the 21st century?” which features a chapter written by Dr Martin, is available from IBRA price £13.50:-

http://ibrastore.org.uk/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_2&products_id=227


4. The International Bee Research Association (“IBRA”) is the world's longest established apicultural research publishers and promotes the value of bees by providing information on bee science, bee conservation and beekeeping worldwide.

5. IBRA publishes the peer reviewed scientific journal the Journal of Apicultural Research founded by IBRA in 1962. It includes original research articles, theoretical papers; scientific notes and comments; together with authoritative reviews on scientific aspects of the biology, ecology, natural history, conservation and culture of all types of bee.

6. IBRA publishes and sells books on bee science, bee conservation and beekeeping and also provides bee information services. IBRA is a Registered Charity, and its Council of trustees boasts some of the world’s leading bee scientists.

7. Membership of IBRA costs just £33.00 annually. Membership benefits include receipt of four quarterly issues of Bee World, our accessible and topical journal on latest bee research, news, reviews and other relevant information for the bee scientist, beekeeper, and anyone with an interest in bees.

 

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