Varroa destructor mite attacks on honeybees threaten wild bumblebees, too, research shows

varroa
A bee plagued with several varroa mites

A mite that spreads a dangerous virus among honeybees also plays an indirect role in infecting wild bumblebees, new research shows.

The Varroa destructor mite lives on honeybees and can spread deformed wing virus (DWV) throughout the hive.

The mite has emerged as a parasite of Western honeybees, after switching from its original host, the Asian honeybee at the beginning of the last century. It has since spread globally through the man-made movement of infested honeybee hives and has turned into a viral vector.

The invasive mite does not live on bumblebees, but University of Exeter scientists have discovered it indirectly affects them by raising infection rates among honeybees, which then spread DWV to nearby bumblebees.

The researchers say their findings highlight the need for beekeepers to treat honeybee colonies affected by mites in order to protect wild bees.

“We compared areas where honeybees had Varroa destructor mites with mite-free areas,” said Dr. Robyn Manley, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“In areas where mites were present—and therefore spreading DWV among honeybees—we found higher rates of the virus among wild bumblebees. Infected honeybees share their environment with bumblebees, feeding on the same flowers and passing on the virus. In effect, the mites turn honeybees into ‘super spreaders’ of DWV.”

Related article:  German farmer's group calls for updated EU GMO crop rules to combat climate change

A large proportion of honeybees in Britain and many other countries live in hives kept by beekeepers, and Dr. Manley said the study raised an important point for them. “Some beekeepers prefer not to intervene if mites appear in their colonies, but this could be endangering wild bees,” she said.

As parasites on honeybee pupae and adults, Varroa destructor mites spread DWV—which is associated with dramatic colony losses due to increased over-winter mortality.

“There is a global epidemic of DWV, partly driven by the spread of the Varroa destructor mite,” said Professor Wilfert, of the University of Ulm, Germany.

“We know the virus severely affects honeybee colonies. There has been less research into the impact on wild bumblebees, but studies so far suggest it can reduce their lifespan. These results emphasize the important role of beekeepers, regulators and landscape managers in maintaining the health of both managed honeybees and wild bee populations.”

There are various strains of DWV, and the Exeter study supports the view that DWV-B is taking over from DWV-A as the most prevalent strain. DWV-B is known to be more harmful to honeybees, but it is not yet clear if and how the strains affect wild bumblebees differently.

Read original article: Honeybee mite raises bumblebee virus risk

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Nigeriacotton

Video: We can ‘finally’ grow GMOs—Nigerian farmer explains why developing countries need biotech crops

Nigerian farmer Patience Koku discusses the GMO crop trials she is conducting on her farm, and why growers can "rise ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
breastfeeding bed x facebook x

Infographic: We know breastfeeding helps children. Now we know it helps mothers too

When a woman becomes pregnant, her risk of type 2 diabetes increases for the rest of her life, perhaps because ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend