Small Talk

UH Manoa researcher provides global perspective on honeybee viruses

March 25th, 2016

The plight of the honeybees has been on the national radar for years, and now a University of Hawaii at Manoa researcher's study on this topic has made the prestigious journal Science.

Grad student Scott Nikaido and researcher Dr. Ethel Villalobos examine honeybees in a hive. Courtesy: UH News

Grad student Scott Nikaido and researcher Dr. Ethel Villalobos examine honeybees in a hive. Courtesy: UH News

This study provides insight on the geographical origin and evolutionary history of the parasitic varroa mite and the deadly Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) it transmits. She follows how human transport of managed hives had unforeseen repercussions on bee health. The European bee was exposed to new environments and placed in contact with the Asian honeybee and its parasites.

One parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, “jumped” host species to the European bee and became a vector of previously mild viral diseases, in particular the DWV, which is now amplified in virulence due to mite transmission.
The subsequent movement of managed colonies helped spread the combination of mite and disease to most parts of the world, with the exception of a few Hawaiian Islands and Australia. Dr. Villalobos indicates these geographical “refugia” hold valuable information about the DWV virus.

Recent studies suggest the high viral levels found in bees can spill over to the pollinator community as whole. Thus, the data gathered about honeybee viruses is valuable not only for beekeepers or growers who depend on bees, but also for conservationists.
Read the Science article at http://www.uhbeeproject.com/news/science_journal-dwv_spread-emv.html.

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