The Varroa mite, the main suspect behind the collapse of bee populations around the world, has landed in New Zealand.
And scientists are using the opportunity to monitor the effects of early infestation on bees and their viruses.
So far, they’ve found seven different bee virus species which have responded in a unique way to the arrival, establishment and persistence of the mite.
Varroa feeds on the blood of pupae and adult bees and can transmit several honeybee viruses with high efficiency.
Uncontrolled infestation can cause an accelerating virus epidemic and kill a bee colony within two to three years.
Fanny Mondet, from the University of Otago, Dunedin, and colleagues aim was to monitor the first stages of the Varroa infestation and its consequences for bees and bee viruses.
They say the arrival of Varroa dramatically changed the viral landscape within the honeybee colonies of New Zealand. Each of seven different virus species examined in detail responded in a unique way to the arrival, establishment, and persistence of the mite.
The researchers say they hope the results of the study will be “useful for the beekeeping industry by highlighting the importance of beekeeper awareness, of mite monitoring, and the timing and efficiency of Varroa control”.
The study is published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.