Lisa patiently separates
the varroas from the bees.

A mysterious disease, which is distributed by virus and is affecting bees, is killing off bees overseas.

For the time being, Austria seems to have been spared. Due to increased global mobility, however, it is only a matter of time before local bee populations will be affected as well.

We thought it was important to find out whether the destructive virus known as “Israeli Acute Bee Paralysis Virus” (IAPV) is already present among us.

To start, we gathered as much information as possible about bees from, among others, The Organismic Faculty of Salzburg, Bee Farm Salzburg, and the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, which provided us with frozen samples of bee viruses to compare.

Numerous students swarmed around their respective hometowns in order to take samples from beehives that had been declared as ill by the beekeepers. The bees were catalogued by habitat, name of beekeeper, date collected, condition, etc., in order to keep record of where they had come from. The virus could only be verified after we developed a test, the first in Austria.

Hard-working students worked for weeks on these verification procedures until we finally found the suitable “formula” and could begin examining the bees.

We did not only examine the bees for IAPV, but also for two local viruses: “Acute Bee Paralysis Virus” (APV),

which is closely related to IAPV, and the “Deformed Wing Virus” (DWV). The fact that only the bees in our samples that were found to have APV were those that were afflicted with Varroa mites awakened our urges as researchers.

In order to further explore the relationship between mites and APV, we spent hours carefully separating the parasites from the bees using tweezers and microscopes. Amazingly, we only found the virus in mites, the varroa-free bees were not affected.

Fortunately, we did not discover the vicious IAPV in any of the diligent little workers. Should the threatening pathogen be introduced, then the fight could begin immediately, with the help of our verification procedures, to have an effect on the bee populations affected by the virus.