A new report published in the journal mBio shows that the staggering rise in honey bee deaths over the past decade could be partly due to a virus that stems from tobacco plants. Researchers found a relationship between bee deaths and the tobacco ringspot virus. The virus is spread through infected pollen, and it can jump from tobacco plants to soy plants to mites, making for a triple threat to hungry bees.

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The report was compiled by leading bee researchers from the Agriculture Department at Beltsville, Maryland, American universities and China’s Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing. The researchers banded together to determine the cause of colony collapse disorder, which has afflicted bee populations around the world in the past few years, causing bees to die at twice the rate of previous years.

The researchers found parasites, pesticides and the tobacco ringspot virus to contribute the the decline of bees. The virus is the first to infect bees directly from pollen, and it’s an RNA virus – meaning it mutates faster than other pathogens and can jump from host to host easily. Researchers believe the virus attacks the nervous systems of honeybees until they weaken and eventually die, and it can easily spread to other bees throughout a hive.

The ringspot virus is common amongst tobacco plants in the fall and winter, which coincides with a spike in bee deaths that has occurred in late autumn for the past few years.

Via NY Times

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