A recent research has found that the Deformed Wing Virus, which is a deadly virus that ruthlessly decimates global bee populations, was caused by humans. Researchers found that the epidemic stems from European honeybees (Apis mellifera) which have brought it to America and elsewhere.
The study results show that the epidemic may be manmade, despite previous claims that it is naturally occurring. The study also revealed that humans helped the disease spread through transportation for pollination purposes and commercial trade.
Researchers explained that the virus by itself does not pose a high risk. But if it pairs with the Varroa mite it can wipe out millions of bees worldwide. While the mite devours honeybee larvae, the virus kills adult honeybees, making it very hard for colonies to survive.
Dr Lena Wilfert, lead author of the study and ecology and conservation expert at the University of Exeter in the U.K., noted that the research brings the first solid evidence that Europe was the ‘backbone’ of the recent pandemic triggered by the duo of bee killers.
And if Europe is the source, the epidemic became so widespread by the man’s hands, Wilfert believes. Researchers explained that if the problem were naturally occurring it would have affected only neighboring states. But the bees are being killed by the virus and mite team in Europe and New Zealand alike.
The research team is convinced that bee transportation helped the devastating disease spread across the world. Study authors recommend governments to greatly limit cross-country bee transportation, especially because the pandemic can easily spread to wild bees.
The data revealed that the epidemic started in Europe from where it reached the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. Yet it is still a mystery why the disease hasn’t reached Asia and Australasia despite being so close to the affected areas.
Scientists also analyzed several suspects for the spread including bumblebees, different types of honeybees and mites. But Apis mellifera was found to be the key transmitter.
Roger Butlin, another researcher involved in the study, noted that domesticated honeybees play a substantial role in pollinating crops and sustain current agriculture systems. But transporting animals and even plants from one place to another poses some serious risks including the risk of starting a devastating pandemic.
Researchers also underscored that since the pandemic is manmade it is within our reach to find the best solutions and prevent future disasters from happening.
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