Even though we rely extensively on bees for agriculture and other environmental services, we have helped to spread a deadly virus that kills them in droves. A recent study exposed how transporting bees has allowed Deformed Wing Virus to proliferate.
Deformed Wing Virus, or DWV, is carried by Varroa mites and has the exact effect on developing bees that the name suggests. The mites consume bee larvae, as well, contributing to big colony losses. A study published in Science revealed how the trade of infected European honeybees has caused the virus to spread. One of the authors, Lena Wilfert, said “We must now maintain strict limits on the movement of bees, whether they are known to carry Varroa or not.”
Fortunately, it is possible to contain the spread of destructive viruses. Approaches include mandatory health screenings during the transportation process and encouraging farmers to regularly inspect their bee colonies for mites. Considering DWV has spread from Europe to North America, Australia, and New Zealand, we still have a lot of work to do. Our future depends on our efforts today to keep bee populations healthy.