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Plant virus may help explain honey bee decline

A virus that typically infects plants was found in honey bees and could help explain their decline, U.S. and Chinese researchers wrote in a study in the American Society of Microbiology's online journal mBio.

Routine screening of bees for viruses turned up the tobacco ringspot virus, or TRSV, prompting researchers to investigate whether the plant pathogen could infect bees. About 5 percent of known plant viruses are pollen-transmitted and therefore potential sources of host-jumping viruses, the report said. "Toxic viral cocktails" appear to have a strong link with honey bee colony collapse disorder, the society wrote.

TRSV was also found in varroa mites, a parasite that transmits viruses between bees while feeding on their blood.

"The increasing prevalence of TRSV . . . supports the view that viral infections have a significant negative impact on colony survival," the researchers wrote.

-- Bloomberg News

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