Thursday, September 10, 2015

Study identifies ant pest as new threat to honey bees

One of the world's most invasive ant species could be accelerating the global decline of honey bees -- and carrying a previously unknown virus that could lead to its own demise, according to a New Zealand research out Wednesday.

The Victoria University study spent three years analyzing genomic data of the Argentine ant in New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.

The results revealed almost all of New Zealand's Argentine ant populations carried the "deformed wing virus," a pathogen associated with colony collapse of honey bees, Professor Phil Lester said in a statement.

"This discovery tells us that Argentine ants are much more of a problem than we previously thought. They host the same deformed wing virus strain found in bees and wasps in New Zealand, and this virus has contributed to declines in honey bee populations around the world," said Lester.

"Argentine ants are known to raid beehives and also forage in the same environment as honey bees. Such close contact is bad for bees, as their association promotes pathogen exchange."

But the researchers also discovered an entirely new virus in the invasive pest species that could assist the ants' own population decline.

"This virus hasn't been seen before, but it's related to other viruses that can devastate populations of other insect species. If managed correctly it could be used as a biopesticide both in New Zealand and overseas," Lester said.

  • Argentine ants (Linepthema humile) are an invasive pest found on every continent except Antarctica. 

The ants can harm crops and are a household problem in urban areas.
 Xinhua -

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