Jan
22
2014

Honey bee population mysteries... is a new virus to blame?

Bees: Another new virus, similar to HIV, has been identified as being a possible cause to high numbers of honey bee deaths.
Bees: Another new virus, similar to HIV, has been identified as being a possible cause to high numbers of honey bee deaths.Courtesy Bksimonb
There's a new possible factor to the rapid collapse of honey bee population numbers. And tobacco plays a role; but the impacted bees aren't smoking.

New research shows that a rapidly mutating plant virus, called the tobacco ringspot virus (TRSV), may be at play in the high fatality rates in bee population numbers. This new virus behaves very similarly to the HIV virus in that it rapidly mutates to evade the immune systems of the honey bees. Evidence of TRSV has been showing up in many dead honeybees.

It's one new piece of the puzzle researchers trying to solve this mystery now can look at. Other factors that appear to be killing honey bees at high rates are new agricultural pesticides, a specific species of mites, the Israeli paralytic virus (IASV) and the loss of open wilderness.

Last winter, one third of honey bees died, a 42-percent increase over the regular winter death rates of 10-15 percent.

What do you think of this new theory? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment here for other Science Buzz readers.

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