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Feb 05, 2016 10:58 AM EST

Honeybees Suffering from Virus Spread Widely by Humans

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A team of scientists believes humans are playing a major role in spreading a virus that is killing off individual honeybees and entire hives.

According to BBC News, the Varroa mite is extremely dangerous to honeybees because it can cause colony collapse, but new genetic research indicated international trade is a significant driver of its spread. The researchers published their study in the journal Science.

"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," study lead author Lena Wilfert, of the University of Exeter's Centre for Ecology and Conservation, said in a press release. "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."

The Varroa mite causes a disease called deformed wing virus, which causes more than just small, stunted wings in those it infects.

"Varroa mites feed on honeybee hemolymph or 'blood,'" Bayer-Wilfert told Discovery News. "They can get infected or contaminated when they feed on infected honeybee larvae and can then in turn pass on the virus to new bee larvae."

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