Science & Technology

Deadly Virus Turns Honey Bees Into Trojan Horses, Rapidly Spreading the Infection to Healthy Hives

Entomology professor Adam Dolezal and his colleagues discovered that an infection with the Israeli acute paralysis virus will increase the chance that contaminated bees are accepted by international colonies. Credit score: Fred Zwicky

Honey bees that guard hive entrances are twice as probably to permit in trespassers from different hives if the intruders are contaminated with the Israeli acute paralysis virus, a lethal pathogen of bees, researchers report.

Their new examine, reported in the Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences, strongly means that IAPV an infection alters honey bees’ habits and physiology in ways in which enhance the virus’s capacity to unfold, the researchers say.

“An important discovering of our examine is that IAPV an infection will increase the chance that contaminated bees are accepted by international colonies,” mentioned Adam Dolezal, a professor of entomology at the College of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who led the new analysis. “In some way, the contaminated bees are in a position to circumvent the guards of international colonies, which they shouldn’t find a way to do.”

Researchers tagged every honey bee with the equal of a QR code and used an automatic system to examine trophallaxis, a course of by which the bees trade regurgitated meals and different liquids. The system allowed them to monitor how an infection with IAPV affected the bees’ trophallaxis social community. Credit score: Tim Gernat

Earlier research have proven that IAPV-infected honey bees are extra probably than wholesome bees to lose their means when returning house from foraging journeys. In industrial beekeeping operations the place hives are stacked a lot nearer collectively than in the wild, the virus is much more probably to unfold from one contaminated colony to close by wholesome ones.

To seize the habits of particular person bees, researchers tagged every one with the equal of a QR code and repeatedly monitored their interactions. The scientists have been in a position to concurrently monitor the behaviors of as many as 900 bees.

In earlier work, examine co-author U. of I. entomologist Gene Robinson and his colleagues developed this automated system to examine bees engaged in trophallaxis, a course of by which honey bees trade regurgitated meals and different liquids. They used this technique to examine how IAPV an infection may have an effect on the bees’ trophallaxis social community.

Honey bees contact their mouthparts and antennae collectively to share meals and data, however the apply can also transmit viruses. Credit score: Fred Zwicky

“Honey bees use trophallaxis to share meals with one another in addition to hormones and different signaling molecules that may have an effect on their physiology and habits. They do it in pairs by touching their mouthparts and antennae, and every bee does this with tons of of companions a day,” mentioned Robinson, who directs the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois. “Trophallaxis is important to the unfold of knowledge and diet all through the hive, however sadly, a habits carried out with such shut social contact additionally permits viral infections to be transmitted by way of a hive.”

In the new examine, the scientists noticed that honey bees altered their habits in response to an infection in their very own hives. IAPV-infected bees – and bees that had had their immune techniques stimulated to mimic an infection – engaged in much less trophallaxis than their wholesome counterparts did.

The contaminated bees have been simply as cellular as the different bees, so their decrease charges of trophallaxis weren’t the results of sluggishness from being sick, Dolezal mentioned. The researchers consider this transformation in habits is a normal response to a well being risk and never particular to IAPV an infection, which is in step with earlier analysis.

When the scientists positioned honey bee staff at the entrance of a international hive, nonetheless, the contaminated bees engaged in additional trophallaxis with the guards, the researchers discovered. The guards have been extra probably to admit them than to let in wholesome bees or bees whose immune techniques had been stimulated. This response was particular to IAPV an infection.

“One thing about them have to be completely different,” Dolezal mentioned.

To check whether or not the IAPV-infected bees have been giving off a distinct chemical odor than their wholesome nest mates, the researchers analyzed the chemistry of the hydrocarbons that coat the bees’ exoskeletons. They found distinct hydrocarbon profiles for wholesome bees, IAPV-infected bees and immunostimulated bees.

“It appears that evidently the virus is altering how the bees scent, and maybe the contaminated bees are also behaving in a means that’s meant to appease the guards by partaking extra in trophallaxus,” Dolezal mentioned.

The brand new findings counsel that IAPV is evolving in ways in which improve its capacity to infect as many hosts as doable, Dolezal mentioned.

“Should you’re a virus, it’s way more useful to get transmitted to a brand new household group, like touring from one metropolis to a brand new metropolis,” he mentioned. “And so how do you get there? You improve the probabilities that the sick bees leaving colony A are extra probably to get into colony B.”


Reference: “Honey bee virus causes context-dependent modifications in host social habits” by Amy C. Geffre, Tim Gernat, Gyan P. Harwood, Beryl M. Jones, Deisy Morselli Gysi, Adam R. Hamilton, Bryony C. Bonning, Amy L. Toth, Gene E. Robinson and Adam G. Dolezal, 27 April 2020, Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences.
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2002268117

The Christopher Household Basis, Nationwide Academies Keck Futures Initiative, American Pollinator Safety Marketing campaign and U.S. Division of Agriculture’s Nationwide Institute of Meals and Agriculture supported this analysis.

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