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Human actions are facilitating bee virus epidemics

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As if bees didn’t have enough to deal with, the ‘deformed wing virus’ (does what it say on the tin) is undergoing a worldwide man-made epidemic, originating from the European honey bee Apis mellifera. Reported in Science (and accompanying Perspective), it appears that the commercial trade of honeybees has facilitated the global spread of DWV via its vector, the rather aptly named mite Varroa destructor, causing population crashes around the world.

However, since bee-bee transmission of DWV is inefficient, the authors note that there is scope to control these epidemics. Restricting movement of bees and taking steps to control V destructor populations in hives will slow the spread of the disease at global and local scales, and minimise the risk to wild populations.

Press release in Science Daily

Heidi Burdett

Editor, Nature Microbiology