Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd (BDI) and the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) are jointly funding a major new research project into Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) at The Pirbright Institute.
DWV has become a devastating disease of managed honey bees in colonies with significant Varroa mite levels and results in high colony losses. New techniques will be used to better understand DWV and other honey bee viruses.
Martin Smith, President of BDI, said: “Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd is delighted to be providing funding for this project. We recognise that DWV is a major source of poor health in honey bee populations and the more we understand this virus, the better tools beekeepers can have to keep these vital pollinators healthy.”
Anne Rowberry, Chairman of BBKA, said: “The BBKA is keen to support research that will enable beekeepers to keep healthy bees. Viruses are an area of great concern and levels of DWV appear to be increasing in colonies. The research being conducted is essential and it may enable strategies to be developed and hopefully the effects of DWV to be minimised in our honey bees.”
Miles Nesbit has been appointed to a PhD studentship exploring the factors that influence honeybee susceptibility to DWV and will start in the autumn. His supervisors are Dr Kirsty Stainton and Prof. Luke Alphey at The Pirbright Institute and Dr Rob Noad at the Royal Veterinary College.
Miles specialises in vector-borne diseases and has wide-ranging research experience in the USA, where he worked with Prof. Jamie Ellis at the University of Florida, and latterly at Imperial College, London.
He has been beekeeping for years both personally and in laboratory settings and said that he looks forward to applying himself to some of the current threats to honey bees and the industry.
Dr Kirsty Stainton of the Pirbright Institute said that there are two predominant strains of DWV - DWV-A and DWV-B – and recent evidence showed a shift in the predominant genotype in the UK and the USA during the past 10 years from DWV-A to DWV-B.
“This project seeks to characterise DWV and other honey bee viruses using honey bee cell lines complemented by in vivo studies. The aim of this project is to expand our understanding of DWV and its complex interactions with the honey bee host and the mite vector,” said Dr Stainton.
The research work will utilise a range of molecular techniques and cell biology to understand the differences between strain types of DWV, understand factors influencing host susceptibility to DWV, and to characterise other poorly studied honey bee viruses. Also, it will involve developing new tools and methods for characterising honey bee viruses.
BDI and BBKA have jointly awarded research funding of £49,000 spread over four years to the project.