Bee Viruses: The Evaluation of Flowering Plants in Horizontal Transmission and Conditions Promoting Viral Replication

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2015: $14,640.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Alison Brody
University of Vermont

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Animals: bees


  • Crop Production: pollinator health

    Proposal abstract:

    Pollinating insects are important for food security and ecosystem function, providing over $200 billion annually in pollination services. Recent honeybee declines have underlined the importance of native pollinators and their ability to provide effective pollination services. However, native bees are also affected by multiple pressures including pathogens, pesticide use and poor nutrition. RNA viruses, once considered to be specific to European honey bees, are among the suspected threats to native bumble bees. However, very little is known about how these viruses are transmitted and their affect on bumble bees. Filling these knowledge gaps is critical for making management recommendations that will lessen the risk of virus infection to important crop pollinators. The purpose of this project is to examine the transmission and infection of RNA viruses among bumble bees. Specifically, using greenhouse and laboratory experiments, I will evaluate 1. The role of flowering hedgerow plant species in viral transmission and 2. The synergistic effects of pesticide exposure and nutrition on viral infection. Results of the proposed research will inform agricultural management recommendations to lessen viral transmission and infection among important crop pollinators.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overarching goal of this research is to provide farmers with practical recommendations to ensure healthy pollinator communities. Using greenhouse and laboratory experiments with captive bumble bee and honey bee colonies, the proposed research will address 2 objectives:




    Objective I. Evaluate the role of different flowering hedgerow plant species in viral transmission. Specifically, I will examine the following questions: Q1. Do plants act as bridges for viral transmission, Q2. Do plant species differ in their propensity to harbor viruses? And Q3. Does flower diversity influence the risk of viral transmission to bees? If funded, I will answer these three questions by conducting greenhouse experiments using captive colonies and plant species commonly recommended in hedgerow plantings.




    Objective II. Examine the synergistic effects of pesticide exposure and nutrition on viral infection in bumble bees. To address objective II, I will conduct a laboratory experiment with captive bee colonies. In discovering how multiple threats interact to harm pollinator communities, my work will directly benefit farmers by providing multiple ways in which agriculture can lessen detrimental impacts to crop pollinators such as the prudent use of pesticides as well as recommendations for plantings of nutritious flowering resources.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.