Antiviral therapies for honeybees

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Biology

Abstract

Honeybees are the most important managed pollinating insects, contributing 'services' worth billions of dollars to global agriculture, as well as producing honey. Healthy colonies are essential for pollination and honey production. Honeybee health is threatened by viruses transmitted by the ectoparasitic mite Varroa when it feeds on bee haemolymph (blood). The most important virus is deformed wing virus (DWV). In the absence of Varroa the virus is present at low levels, is genetically diverse and causes minimal impact on colony health. When transmitted by Varroa, a single virulent variant (which we term DWVv) replicates to 10,000 times higher levels, causing serious developmental disease to young bees and reducing the lifespan of adults, so accounting for the 20%+ colony losses over winter. We have identified DWVv and propose to look at its global distribution and test therapies designed to inhibit virus replication. These studies are critical too improve honeybee health.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have analysed the most important viruses (DWV) that cause disease in honey bees globally. We show that this virus only grows to very high levels when transmitted by the Varroa mite. Different bees, from different geographic origins, have variants of DWV. This strongly suggests that there is NOT a single virulent strain, but rather a number of virulence determinants that influence the virus phenotype. This is an important observation because it means we cannot target a SINGLE virus type - for example using a nucleic-acid based intervention strategy - but instead have to develop mechanisms to control the transmission, spread and replication of a wide range of divergent viruses.
Exploitation Route 1. By genome comparisons it should be possible to identify the molecular determinants of pathogenesis. 2. By understanding the transmission kinetics and the ability of the virus to replicate in the Varroa mite it should be possible to define optimal intervention strategies. 3. By understanding the rate at which the virus population reverts to a low level and a high diversity it should be possible to define rational control strategies, including isolation and treatment regimes.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

 
Description Multiple articles on a website for beekeepers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I maintain a website for beekeeping which regularly discusses honey bee health. In particular there is a focus on the rational combination of science and practical beekeeping to improve honey bee health. The website was started in late 2014 and involves about 50 posts per year. 2017 access statistics are ~145,000 'real' page views (i.e. not robots or search engines) from ~75,000 visitors spread across ~120 countries. 2018 statistics show about 4,000 visitors per week visit the site. ~66% of site visits are from the UK and USA. My writing results in many invitations to speak at national beekeeping events. Access statistics show a significant increase from 2014 (~12,000), 2015 (~38,000), 2016 (~71,000) to 2017 (~145,000). Several beekeeping associations reproduce the content attributed to thrown members.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017,2018
URL http://www.theapiarist.org
 
Description TV and radio 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview for South Korean TV on honey bee viruses
Interview for Spanish TV/video media about honey bee viruses

Both were documentaries on honey bee viruses - interview length was 3-5 hours each.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL http://one.lavanguardia.com
 
Description Talks - many 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talks
Evening and weekend talks to beekeeping association in England, Scotland and Wales - total number of talks over 2013-2017 is at least 30. Audiences range from ~20 to ~200. Total reached well in excess of 500.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016,2017
 
Description Talks at National/International beekeeping events 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions afterwards and resulted in further invitations to talk, newsletter articles and collaborations

Collaborations, newsletter articles
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
 
Description Talks to Beekeeping Associations - evening talks and weekend National conventions 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Numerous talks to beekeeping associations - Perth and District, Nairn, Peebles, Edinburgh and Midlothian, South Devon Beekeepers, Welsh Beekeeping Association and others - either in evenings or weekends. The purpose of the talks is to mix science and practical beekeeping to improve honey bee colony health. Evening talks might be attended by 30-50 people, weekend talks (like the Welsh beekeepers convention) attract an audience in excess of 300. Most of the talks are associated with extensive Q&A sessions and follow up correspondence.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Talks to beekeeping associations 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Very extensive Q&A from interested groups

Sponsorship was provided, though this wasn't the primary reason for the presentation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014,2015