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Humans to Blame for the Spread of the Devastating Disease That's Killing Honeybees

First Posted: Feb 05, 2016 07:47 AM EST

The spread of the disease that's wiping out global bee populations is humanmade-and largely druvien by European honeybee populations. The new findings show exactly what researchers may need to target to halt this spread.

In this latest study, the researchers found that the European honeybee, Apis mellifera, is overwhelmingly the source of the cases of the Deformed Wing Virus infecting hives worldwide. The finding suggests that the pandemic is humanmade rather than naturally occurring, with human trade and transportation of bees for crop pollinating driving the spread.

Although separately they are not major threats to bee populations, when the Varroa mite carries the disease, the combination is deadly. In fact, this combination has wiped out millions of honeybees over recent decades. Varroa feed on bee larvae while the Deformed Wing Virus kills off bees.

"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," said Lena Wilfert, one of the researchers, in a news release. "This demonstrates that the spread of this combination is largely humanmade-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. This significantly strengthens the theory that human transportation of bees is responsible for the spread of this devastating disease."

The findings reveal a bit more about this disease, which could potentially help researchers encourage policies that may possibly help stall its spread in the future.

The findings are published in the journal Science.

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