Scientists in the United Kingdom have recently outlined the deformed wing virus (DWV) phenomenon thought to be spread via Varroa mites. They have discovered how prevalence of DWV strains and Varroa mite infestations correlate.
Varroa Mites are one factor experts are considering while trying to find possible causes behind declining numbers of honeybees worldwide, otherwise referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Within recent decades, officials estimated that the honeybee population has shrunk by nearly three-quarters.
It is widely known that honeybees are a primary pollinator in most places of the world, contributing to an estimated $40 billion in generated annual international agricultural sales. This poses a large problem as the global demand for resources continues to rise.
One thing environmental and apiary advocates are doing to mitigate the problem is target specific hindrances faced by honeybees.
Varroa mites are said to have been identified sometimes during the first half of the 1900s, sources say. Since then, instances of Varroa mite infestations in hives has become quite common.
The parasite is said to attach itself to developing honeybee pupae. After the nascent honeybees hatch, their wings are deformed. Eventually, this handicap contributes to the creatures’ untimely death.
“We find deformed wing virus in almost all colonies,” Professor David Evans of the University of Warwick told Planet Earth Online news. “It’s one of the most common viruses that affects honeybees.”
“But we only find high levels of this virulent strain of the virus when the Varroa mite has fed on the developing bee,” said Evans. “In this case, it accounts for more than 99.9-percent of the DWV present.”
Officials were able to determine that different strains of DWV appeared to all be similarly caused by the Varroa mite. Infested colonies and non-infested colonies (pupae) were both injected with DWV strains.
“Our results show that the most virulent strain of DWV is actually advantaged by this direct transmission route,” said Evans, regarding the method the Varroa mite uses to infect its host.
Researchers hope that these findings will lead to the discovery of a universal antiviral solution for DWV that can be distributed to treat cases in all countries affected.
“We need to confirm that this virulent strain of DWV is distributed globally,” explained Evans. “If it is, our results mean that future antiviral therapies only need be developed for one strain of DWV.”
The project conducted in the United Kingdom was in part of the Insect Pollinators Initiative, noted to share funding with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Councils (BBSRC).