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Researchers Discover New Virus in Hawaii That Threatens Bees, Pollinators Worldwide

Nov 03, 2016 07:41 AM EDT

Scientists have discovered a virus in Moku Island, Hawaii, that inhabits an invasive wasp. If left unchecked, it is a threat not only to bees but to other pollinators worldwide.

Bees are known to be vital to worldwide food systems as they pollinate a lot of plants. Sadly, they are already considered endangered species, and the recently discovered virus poses a new threat to the entire ecosystem. Bees are also prone to emergent diseases such as the deformed wing virus (DWV), which makes the Moko virus a threat to be reckoned with.

Gideon Mordecai led the identification of the new Moko virus, with Purnima Pachori of Earlham Institute identifying the host and the genetic material.

It appears the virus is native to Vespula pensylvanica, a type of invasive wasp. 

Mordecai and his peers said in an article on Earlham Institute that the ramifications of the transmission pathogens are astounding and can be potentially lethal to our food supply. Declan Schroeder from the same school explained this is similar to how smallpox and measles infected poeple worldwide; only this time, it's honeybees.  

Another Earlham Institute article highlighted the importance of monitoring invasive species for these viruses as they can be transmitters of other deadly pathogens. Right now, researchers are exploring the likelihood of the virus affecting Hawaii's native bee population.

However, it was found that the Moko virus is also related to the slow bee paralysis virus found in some parts of the United Kingdom, Fiji, and Western Samoa. This indicates that there's a possibility that the virus is already present globally. 

Bees were added to the list of endangered species of the United States for the first time this October. This is after reports of seven bee species being endangered themselves. According to NPR, the United States is now pushing for regulations that can protect bees and limit harm from outside sources. 

Bees are known for their ability to pollinate and help plants grow around the globe. Their lessening population can hold devastating consequences to our global food structure and economy. 

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