Friday, June 8, 2012

Invasive mite worsens honeybee viruses

A mite that parasitizes honeybees can turn formerly small-time, local virus strains into widespread, dominant hazards.

As the Varroa destructor mite infiltrated Hawaiian bee colonies from 2007 to 2010, viral infection strength in local bees soared a million-fold, and a once-obscure but nasty strain of deformed wing virus surged to prominence. Even when beekeepers beat back the mite, the newly prominent virus remained abundant. Mite damage plus the virus shorten the lives of bees and can destroy colonies.

So far Hawaiian beekeepers have not reported the swifter, specific malady called colony collapse disorder (SN: 7/28/2007, p. 56), but the ability of the mite — now spreading globally — to reshape viral threats is worrisome, say Stephen J. Martin of the University of Sheffield in England and his colleagues in the June 8 Science.

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