Scientists at the University of Warwick have modelled an outbreak of the bee infection American foulbrood in Jersey, using a technique which could be applied to other honeybee diseases such as European foulbrood and the Varroa parasite.
As well as modelling how bee infections spread, the method also allows scientists to simulate various disease control interventions in order to measure their efficacy.
The researchers used two sets of data gathered two months apart during an outbreak of American foulbrood in Jersey in the summer of 2010. This provided two 'snapshots' of the disease from which they attempted to reconstruct the entire epidemic.
Reconstructions like this are common for livestock infections, but this is the first time the method has been applied to bee disease.
The research is published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface
American foulbrood is caused by the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae, which affects the larval stage of honeybees. It can cause the death of an entire hive within a matter of months.
The Jersey data covered 450 honeybee hives, their location and their owners, from which the researchers built a computer simulation which modelled the speed at which the infection grew as well as how it spread geographically.
Dr Samik Datta of the WIDER group, based at the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick, said: "Honeybees are one of the most important bee species in the world in terms of their contribution to food production through pollination.
"But in the past 20 years there has been a marked increase in the level of disease among bee populations.
"American foulbrood is an unusually virulent disease which can wipe out a hive within a few months.
"By understanding how it is spreads from hive to hive, we then have a good basis to formulate interventions.
"This is the first rigorous statistical analysis car
|Contact: Anna Blackaby|
University of Warwick