Two High-Impact Journals Publish New Papers on the Parasitic Varroa destructor Mite’s Role in Collapse of Honey Bee Colonies
Statement by Dr. Peter Daszak, President
EcoHealth Alliance, an organization with a long history of ground-breaking work on species declines by our disease discovery experts, welcomes the publication of two new papers on the critical issue of honey bee colony declines, focusing on the role of the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. The mite was introduced in South America in the late 1970s, across Europe in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the United States in 1987, and Hawaii in 2007.
The papers are in high-impact journals Science and PLoS Pathogens, both highly-respected among disease ecologists and other scientists.
EcoHealth Alliance announced this month the expansion of its programs to include the study of honey bee health. Leveraging the organization's independent scientific expertise, EcoHealth Alliance scientists are building on the methodology used to understand global amphibian declines beginning two decades ago and applying that knowledge to study similar issues facing honey bees.
Disease ecologist Dr. Peter Daszak led a collaboration of scientists to uncover the underlying cause of frog species decline from habitats spanning North, Central and South America as well as Australia. The discovery of chytridiomycosis - the fungal disease causing wide spread amphibian losses - was a breakthrough amidst the vast speculation of presumed factors including pollution, UV-B light, pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss.
EcoHealth Alliance's team of scientists began its understanding of issues affecting honey bee health with an extensive scientific literature review focused on economic drivers, environmental factors, pesticides, and pathogens. The literature review laid the groundwork for EcoHealth Alliance to identify gaps in the current research and colony management practices, and to suggest future research directions.
The literature review, backed up by a 2011 survey of beekeepers and scientists around the world, identified research on the Varroa mite as the #1 priority for future research.
The new papers Global Honey Bee Viral Landscape Altered by a Parasitic Mite in Science on June 8, 2012 and Synergistic Parasite-Pathogen Interactions Mediated by Host Immunity Can Drive the Collapse of Honeybee Colonies in PLoS Pathogens in June 2012 answer that call in a timely and powerful way.
About EcoHealth Alliance
Building on over 40 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is a global, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and safeguarding human health from the emergence of disease. The organization develops ways to combat the effects of damaged ecosystems on human and wildlife health. Using environmental and health data covering the past 60 years, EcoHealth Alliance scientists created the first-ever, global disease hotspots map that identified at-risk regions, to help predict and prevent the next pandemic crisis. That work is the foundation of EcoHealth Alliance's rigorous, science-based approach, focused at the intersection of the environment, health, and capacity building. Working in the U.S. and more than 20 countries worldwide, EcoHealth Alliance's strength is founded on innovations in research, training, global partnerships, and policy initiatives.