BELTSVILLE, Md. (CBSDC) – According to a recent study, the decline in honey bees could be a result of a plant virus.

“Researchers from the U.S. and China screened bees for frequent and rare viruses turned up the tobacco ringspot virus, or TRSV, prompting the researchers to investigate whether the plant pathogen could infect bees,” the society said in an online statement.

“The results of our study provide the first evidence that honey bees exposed to virus-contaminated pollen can also be infected and that the infection becomes widespread in their bodies,” Jilian Li of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science in Beijing and the study’s lead author told Businessweek.

Researchers were able to determine that about 5 percent of known plant viruses are pollen-transmitted, therefore they can be a source for host-jumping viruses.

Yan Ping Chen, of the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s lab in Beltsville, Md., said the findings of TRSV in bees was “a serendipitous detection.”

The researchers collected data from bee colonies and labeled them as either strong or weak. They found that viruses were most common in the weak groups.

The study showed that colonies with high levels of multiple viral infections started failing in late fall months and were eliminated before February. Hives with fewer infections made it through the cold months.

“The increasing prevalence of TRSV in conjunction with other bee viruses is associated with a gradual decline of host population and supports the view that viral infections have a significant negative impact on colony survival,” the researchers wrote in their study.

The study was published in the American Society of Microbiology’s online journal mBio.


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