Deformed Wing Virus In Honeybees of the Southern Hemisphere

by Katy - Bee Missionary August 30, 2021

Deformed Wing Virus In Honeybees of the Southern Hemisphere

Deformed wing virus has killed millions of bee colonies in the US, Europe and Asia. So why are honeybees in Brazil and South Africa – where the virus is present – not dying so fast?

Two researchers decided to figure it out. Flaviane Santos Souza, with a PhD from University of Salford, and Stephen John Martin, Chair in Social Entomology, at University of Salford in the UK, focused on deformed wing virus and the damage it could inflict on the world bee population.

The parasitic varroa mite, a key culprit in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) transmits a pathogen called deformed wing virus. It poses a serious threat to the bees of the world.

This 1:44-minute video by Beekeeping.IsGood.ca shows a honey bee with deformed wing virus: 

 

 

This virus has caused the death of millions of bee colonies in the US, Asia and Europe since the early 1990s, causing at least 30% of colonies to die each year. 

South Africa and Brazil have not reported the same sorts of honeybee colony losses caused by the varroa mite as has been recorded in countries in the northern hemisphere. There are over 1,000 registered beekeepers in South Africa, and over 60,000 colonies.

The two main types of indigenous bees in South Africa, which account for much of the country’s bee industry, are Apis mellifera capensis and Apis mellifera scutellata.

According to the research these scientists performed, it seems the honeybees in Brazil and South Africa have learned to detect the presence of and then remove mite-infested cells as part of their hygienic hive behavior. Further research will be necessary to prove whether there is a link between the lower viral loads in the bee colonies and the hygienic bee behavior.

There would be a great benefit in understanding why this is so. If it can be understood how these southern hemisphere honeybees maintain a lower viral load, this can help give beekeepers in the northern hemisphere a healthier way to lower the viral loads afflicting their honey bees, rather than just using pesticides to kill mites and pathogens, which creates a whole host of other problems for bees and the environment.

 

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Katy - Bee Missionary
Katy - Bee Missionary

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