The spread of a disease that is decimating global bee populations is manmade, and driven by European honeybee populations, new research has concluded.
A disease that is causing bee populations to undergo decimations is man-made and being spread by European honeybees.
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Basically, the European honeybee is the carrying agent of the Deformed Wing Virus. This has infected beehives on a global level and is wreaking havoc among bee colonies.
The epidemic is mainly a man-made one. It is definitely not a natural phenomenon. Human commerce and the transfer of bees for purposes of crop pollination lie behind this issue which is at hand.
It is a case of a double whammy. The Varroa mite is one of the disease vectors in this equation. Millions of honey bees have been decimated thanks to this little critter. The effect has become commonplace over a few decades.
The Varroa eat away at the bee larvae while the Deformed Wing Virus causes bees to bite the dust. The future of bee populations is tied up with such issues as natural diversity, agricultural stability, worldwide economic conditions and human vitality.
The study was managed by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and various universities collaborated in the scheme of things. However, University of Exeter and UC Berkeley led this which got published in the journal Science.
It is Europe which is the cause of both the Varroa mite and Deformed Wing Virus. Had the disease been natural, the malady would have spread around the environs of a single loci.
But instead areas and regions as far apart as Europe and New Zealand have the same problem showing that it is a man-made ailment. The transportation that humans engaged in was responsible for this SNAFU. As for the disease, it is a catastrophic one which will probably have serious consequences in the long run.
"This is the first study to conclude that Europe is the backbone of the global spread of the bee killing combination of Deformed Wing Virus and Varroa. This demonstrates that the spread of this combination is largely manmade - if the spread was naturally occurring, we would expect to see transmission between countries that are close to each other, but we found that, for example, the New Zealand virus population originated in Europe," said lead author Dr Lena Wilfert, of the University of Exeter's Centre for Ecology and Conservation, on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall.
"This significantly strengthens the theory that human transportation of bees is responsible for the spread of this devastating disease. We must now maintain strict limits on the movement of bees, whether they are known to carry Varroa or not. It's also really important that beekeepers at all levels take steps to control Varroa in their hives, as this viral disease can also affect wild pollinators."
Bee migrations will have to be limited from now onwards. We cannot allow the bee populations to be transported here, there and everywhere in accordance with human whim. Beekeepers will have to keep tabs on the Varroa mite infection among their colonies.
The disease known as Deformed Wing Virus spread from Europe to North America, Australia and then New Zealand. Asia and Australasia were spared the discomfort caused by the the disease.
The European honeybee was the chief agent of the disease. The threat is very real. And since honeybees are a vital part of the way that agriculture propagates itself in all societies around the world, the danger is all the more compounded.
Professor Roger Butlin, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Sheffield, said: "Our study has found that the deformed wing virus is a major threat to honeybee populations across the world and this epidemic has been driven by the trade and movement of honeybee colonies.
"Domesticated honeybee colonies are hugely important for our agriculture systems, but this study shows the risks of moving animals and plants around the world. The consequences can be devastating, both for domestic animals and for wildlife. The risk of introducing viruses or other pathogens is just one of many potential dangers."
Senior author Professor Mike Boots of Exeter and UC Berkeley concluded: "The key insight of our work is that the global virus pandemic in honeybees is manmade not natural. It's therefore within our hands to mitigate this and future disease problems."