It appears another piece of the confusing honey bee puzzle has been found. Scientists have reportedly discovered that parasitic mites have turbo-charged the spread of a virus responsible in large numbers of honey bee deaths around the world.
Colony collapse disorder is the name for the rapid honey bee decline, which still has many mysteries waiting to be solved. The Varroa mite is a big suspect, known to spread viruses while feeding on bee’s blood.
A team of researchers led by Stephen Martin of Britain’s University of Sheffield studied the Varroa mite’s impact in Hawaii, a spot they’ve most recently invaded. They found that Varroa led to a significant increase in “deformed wing virus” in honey bees, with this single strain accounting for the majority of infections. According to Martin, this is the dominant strain around the world that appears to be responsible for the bee collapse.
There are still other factors thought to be responsible for colony collapse disorder, including pesticides, decreased plant diversity, and fungi, but these findings point to the virus as the main culprit. The findings indicate beekeepers will need to take more precautions in controlling Varroa infestation in their colonies.
Bee colony collapse disorder is prominent across the United States and much of Europe, extending to parts of South America, Asia, and the Middle East. Bees are important in the pollination of flowering plants, including seasonal fruits and veggies. According to a 2011 UN report, the work of bees and other pollinators do about $191 billion worth of work a year for the human economy. If anything, that’s a pretty big reason to help keep the bee population thriving.
Image CC licensed by Don Hankins: Bee hive