Bacteria carried by Varroa mites may be key to unlocking mystery of honey bee deaths

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A University of Wisconsin-Stout biology professor and his students may have made an important discovery in the effort to determine why honey bee hives are dying out during the winters in the Upper Midwest.

Biology Professor Jim Burritt and his students have published research [in PLOS One] about a new strain of the bacterium called Serratia marcescens strain sicaria. … Ss1 for short.

“Our results indicate that Ss1 may contribute to the wintertime failure of honey bee colonies. We believe this is important because most beekeepers in our area lose over half of their hives each winter. …” said Burritt….

The bacterium came to light … as researchers looked for a different organism in blood drawn from sick bees in Dunn County. …

“It was clear we were looking at something different. As we did more testing on the organism, we began to realize we may be working with a new threat to honey bees. …” Burritt said.

Related article:  Genetic Literacy Project’s Top 6 Stories for the Week

. . . .

Along with finding the new strain of bacterium, also groundbreaking within the study is confirmation that Varroa destructor mites carry the Ss1 bacterium, Burritt said. Previously, mites were known only for transmitting viruses to honey bees.

The eight-legged Varroa mites are about the size of a poppy seed, Burritt said. “With the help of the students, we developed a method to efficiently obtain culture information from many individual mites,” he said.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Professor, students identify bacterium that may kill honey bees

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