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Virtual bees help to unravel microbial and other causes of colony decline

What effect does the varroa mite, and the viruses it transmits, have on bee colonies? To find out, scientists have developed a new computer model to that simulates a honey bee colony over the course of several years.
Shown in the video on this page, the BEEHAVE model was c0-funded by BBSRC and created to investigate the losses of honeybee colonies and to identify the best course of action for improving honeybee health.
As the video shows, by inputting data about environmental factors that influence a hive, such as weather, foraging and presence of the varroa mite, the computer model simulates a honey bee colony over the course of several years.
A team of scientists, led by Professor Juliet Osborne from the University of Exeter (and previously at Rothamsted Research), developed BEEHAVE. The first results of the model show that colonies infested with the varroa mite, which passes on viruses to the bees, can be much more vulnerable to food shortages; these effects build up over subsequent years leading to eventual failure of the colony if not given effective varroa treatment.
The research is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12222

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