Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bee viruses all the buzz

I thought I’d take a look at another “tangentially human” virus, or one that affects another organism with which we closely associate.

Recent research suggests that wild honeybees are vulnerable to viruses that “spill over” from captive colonies. We’ve seen this phenomenon before with birds.

Until recently, the only virus known to jump to wild honeybees from captive ones was the deformed wing virus, a member of the Iflaviridae family (related to Picornaviruses). It is transmitted by Varroa mites. The virus affects the expression of genes related to wing development during the pupa stage. The resulting wings are shriveled and non-functional, so it’s obviously not good for bees, especially considering that bees are facing a lot of difficulties. The most recent study found a handful of others, including black queen cell virus and acute bee paralysis virus (sort of like the cricket bersion I described in an earlier post). The researchers in the study hypothesized that the transmission occurred at shared flowers.

A healthy honeybee vs a honeybee infected with the deformed wing virus

--Joe Getsy

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