Study on transmission and virulence of honeybee viruses in bumblebees, and use of biotechnology for improving bumblebee health

01 January 2012 → 31 December 2017
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Animal biology
    • Evolutionary biology
insects food chain
Project description

Recent data demonstrate that bumblebees are declining in numbers and in species diversity.
Bumblebees as Bombus terrestris are important worldwide pollinators of wildflowers and
cultivated crops in modern agriculture. Indeed, as in honeybees, it is expected that viral
infections can also cause the collapsing of colonies of bumblebees, however, there is no
information to date. In order to fill this gap, this project proposes a multidisciplinary approach to investigate and unravel the transmission and virulence of the so-called honeybee viruses in bumblebees. A multihost model will help to clarify the virus epidemiology and disease patterns at individual and colony level. To further elaborate on this frontier research topic, there are excellent prospects for virus control and improving bumblebee health. By exploiting the systemic character of RNA interference a multi-target control approach will be developed to reduce viral escape mechanisms. In a last part, the focus lies on preventive measures and the beneficial microbial community in the bumblebee gut, improving food uptake and digestion, and nutrient biosynthesis.