December 14, 2016

Characterising and predicting the impact of infection with deformed wing virus (DWV) on honey bees and bumble bees.

Characterising and predicting the impact of infection with deformed wing virus (DWV) on honey bees and bumble bees

In social insects, such as pollinators, infectious diseases challenge the survival and effective function of both the individual and the entire colony. While pests and pathogens have been implicated in honey bee colony losses, concerns are increasing for the impact of emerging infectious diseases (EID) on wild pollinators and associated pollination service provision. Deformed wing virus (DWV) is vectored by the Varroa mite and is an EID in European honey bee colonies. It is known to reduce the flight performance of apparently healthy honey bees and its presence has been attributed to over-winter colony failure. DWV has recently been recorded in wild bumble bees, but little is known about its effects on mortality and behaviour.

Although it has been hypothesised that DWV transmission to bumble bees is via spill-over from honey bee colonies, there is a lack of clear evidence. Recently, three genotypes of DWV, each with distinct implications for honey bee colony health, have been described, but empirical data on the effects of DWV genotypes on honey and bumble bees are lacking. This project aims to address these knowledge gaps in order to aid our basic understanding of the transmission routes of DWV to wild pollinators and to provide clear guidance on Varroa mite control in honey bee colonies in the context of protecting wild pollinators and associated pollination services.

This studentship presents an opportunity to use a number of specialised equipment and techniques, including the harmonic radar and tethered-flight mills unique to Rothamsted, as well as molecular biology tools, such as qPCR. The project benefits from interdisciplinary expertise in bee, pathogen, movement and molecular ecology, together with support from biostatisticians. The student will also receive high quality training in statistics, bioinformatics and data analysis programs, QA, publishing and presentation skills.

Applicants should hold a minimum of UK Honours Degree at 2:1 or equivalent in subjects such as Biological Sciences, Natural Science, Behavioural Ecology.

For further details, please contact Dr Alison Haughton