A Pilot Apis Viral and Nosema Mapping Initiative: Using geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial analysis to monitor honey bee health.

Abstract

It has been clear for several years that two major problems affecting honey bee health are  the increasing challenges posed by viruses that are vectored by the Asian bee mite (Varroa destructor)1  and variants of an intestinal organism, Nosema spp.  The Apis Viral and Nosema Mapping initiative proposes to map viruses and correlated Nosema loads in a limited area of Florida using geographic information system (GIS) technology and spatial statistical analysis.  A total of 60 honey bee samples from participating beekeepers surrounding Tallahassee, Leon County Florida will be collected at two points in time (Winter 2012 and Spring 2013).

 

Samples will be analyzed for viral presence (types and amount) in addition to Nosema spp. Load by BVS, inc.  The geographic location for all samples collected in addition to information on apiary size, queen source, etc. will be collected from participating beekeepers submitting samples. They will also be responsible for submitting follow-up information on the fate of hives that were sampled.

 

Data collected will be analyzed using spatial statistics to identify clusters of viral types and Nosema loads in relation to bee colony distance, density, and overall geographic relationship in the landscape. The long-range goal of this project is to determine whether this type of mapping can provide enough data and/or results to expand the effort in the future. In addition, this project serves as a model for other beekeeping organizations to pursue collective funding and data collection in efforts to contribute to knowledge at broader geographic scales.

 

Introduction

Virus detection methods are now becoming much more available given new technologies.  A unique approach is the Integrated Virus Detection System (IVDS), pioneered by the U.S. military, but now being used by civilian scientists in a number of disciplines.  This invention analyzes the physical properties of virus, virus-like and other nanometer (nm) particles to determine a concentration, distribution and information for discrimination and characterization of nanometer particles (1 nm equals one billionth of a meter).  The analysis can identify many known virus types pathogenic to honey bees, as well as a new means for detecting unknown and emerging viruses. 

BVS, Inc. under direction of CEO David Wick screens for honey bee viruses using IVDS as part of its business model 2.  Questions have been raised about the effectiveness of this screening and its potential to determine the general status of a honey bee health.  One is that some particles detected may not be viruses at all, but other organisms.  Another is that screening does not identify any specific virus, but only makes determination by particle size.  Finally, because there is no treatment for viruses, detecting and mapping them is futile because it does not provide beekeepers any way to remedy the situation. 

The first criticism centered upon the effectiveness of this screening above appears to be incorrect.  The technique has been carefully vetted by the U.S. Army and a number of research papers have shown contamination by other particles is extremely unlikely.  The second is slowly being clarified.  At the present time BVS reveals it can identify seven specific viruses as part of its analyses and the number is expected to increase. The viruses identified by the screening include: Chronic Paralysis Virus, Black Queen Cell Virus, Sacbrood Virus, Acute Bee Paralysis Virus, Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, Kasmir Virus, and Deformed Wing Virus.   Although no treatments for viruses yet exist, there are continuing important advances in this field.3

Another challenge to honey bee health is the interactive effects of multiple pathogens on colony health. In particular, viruses are known to interact with microsporidia fungi (Nosema spp.) in the honey bee gut. 4   Often called the “silent killer,” the fungus Nosema apis is traditionally held responsible for untold colony losses because it is often not detected by the beekeeper until it's too late.5  A new variant of this organism, Nosema ceranae, has recently been detected making diagnosis and treatment for this fungus more difficult. 6    Addition of Nosema spp. screening by BVS provides another powerful indication of potential honey bee colony health that can be spatially correlated with viral loads.

Objectives

The Apis Viral and Nosema Mapping initiative proposes to map viruses and correlated Nosema loads in a limited area of Florida using geographic information system (GIS) technology:7 and spatial statistical analysis.  The long-range goal of this project is to determine whether this type of mapping can provide enough data and/or results to expand the effort in the future. In addition this project serves as a model for other beekeeping organizations to pursue collective funding and data collection in efforts to contribute to knowledge at broader geographic scales.

This is a unique project deserving support for the following reasons:

1.      No other integrated viral detection technology exists comparable to that of BVS, Inc.

2.      No maps have been developed showing viral and correlated Nosema loads in a selected geographic area.

3.      Participating beekeepers will share the financial risk, resulting in a powerful incentive to collect data in a reasonable and efficient way. 

4.      The data collection and display technology developed will be unique, and provide a basis for further possible developments in this area. 

5.      The total projected costs are minimal for this kind of research project, with participating entities funding a significant percentage of the cost. 

 
References

 

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