Friday, June 08, 2012

Scientists link bee colony collapses to fatal virus spread by mites

Reddish Varroa destructor mite on honeybee (Photo by Alamy)
The worldwide collapse of honeybee colonies may have finally been linked to a blood-sucking parasite that has successfully spread a fatal virus on a global scale. According to findings published in the journal Science, the researchers warned that the virus passed on by the varroa mite is now one of the "most widely distributed and contagious insect viruses on the planet."  Furthermore, writes Damian Carrington in The Guardian, the new dominance of the killer virus "poses an ongoing threat to colonies even after beekeepers have eradicated the mites from hives. Varroa destructor has spread from Asia across the entire world over the past 50 years."

Bees and other pollinators are vital in the production in up to a third of all the food eaten by humans, and a 2011 United Nations report estimated that bees and other pollinators such as butterflies, beetles or birds do work worth $191 billion a year for the world economy. The role of mites in colony coll,apse disorder had been suspected but unclear; bacteria, fungi and pesticides had also been found in colonies along with the viruses. The disorder had proven difficult to study because the bees generally left the hive en masse to perish, making it difficult for effective post-mortems.  (Read more)

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