Newly Discovered Virus May Wipe Out Global Bee Population, Scientists Warn
The new virus variant is spread by varroa mites or “varroa destructors”, a devastating pest which feeds on the hemolymph (blood) of the Western honey bee population. The mites invade honeybee hives and can eat honey bee pupa as well as spread viruses.
A newly discovered variant of the Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) is threatening to wipe out the global bee population.
The bee population is already vulnerable due to human-inflicted causes including pesticides, drought, habitat destruction prompted by construction sites, air pollution and global warming. A common bee pest, the varroa mite, now poses an additional threat to the bee’s population.
“The Deformed Wing Virus is arguably the biggest threat to honey bees right now. Our lab research has shown that the new, highly contagious variant is killing bees faster,” says Dr. Robert Paxton who teaches at the Martin Luther University Halle Wittenberg (MLU).
DWV is responsible for causing severe damage to a bee’s wing before eventually killing them. The new variant was discovered by a scientist collective across the globe who have been studying DWV for two decades. The new variant is being spread by varroa mites, a common honey bee pest.
According to researchers at MLU who used 3,000 different sets of data to track down the new variant's location, the new variant has already spread throughout Europe and has already reached every other continent with the exception of Australia.
“Our analysis confirms that the new variant is already the dominating force in Europe. We fear that it’s just a matter of time before it will have forced its way all over the world,” warns Dr. Paxton.
Scientists warn beekeepers that basic, general hygiene measures are a key preventive measure against the destructive pests.
"Basic, general hygiene measures for the hive are paramount for beekeepers when it comes to protecting their colonies from the varroa mite," says Dr. Paxton.
They add that discovering the mites in their early stages of infestation will also help save the hive they are tending.
"Bees are the most important creature for mankind and the environment," adds Dr. Paxton
Indeed, bees are a vital part of the planet— responsible for 80% of all pollination globally— they are the farmers who help support and grow fruits, nuts, and vegetables within 70/100 top human food crops that are responsible for 90% of the world’s nutrition.
Bees are so essential that if they die: we don’t eat.