Bee death probe is targeting specific viruses
by Kathy Keatley Garvey

DAVIS
August 12, 2008 12:01am
Comment Print Email

•  Cause of Colony Collapse Disorder still eludes science

•  Will study an antiviral strategy in honey bees

Michelle Flenniken near an apiary in Grass Valley. (Photo by Kim Fondrk)

Insect virus researcher Michelle Flenniken, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California, San Francisco, the newly selected Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis, is hot on the trail of the killer of America’s honey bee population.

“We’re hoping that Michelle Flenniken’s expertise in molecular virology will lead to understanding one of the factors contributing to colony collapse disorder and lead to strategies that increase honeybee survival,” says Lynn Kimsey, head of the Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.

Colony collapse disorder occurs when bees mysteriously abandon their hives, often leaving behind immature bees and honey. The nation's beekeepers have reported losing from one-third to 100 percent of their bees over the last two years.

Skilled in multidisciplinary research -- molecular biology, microbiology, chemistry and cell biology – Ms. Flenniken will focus on the biology of honeybee viruses, specifically the role of RNA interference (RNAi) in the honeybee antiviral immune responses, says Ms. Kimsey.

RNA, short for ribonucleic acid, carries genetic information of viruses. RNAi is a mechanism that inhibits gene expression.

“I hypothesize that RNAi can be used as an antiviral strategy in honey bees,” says Ms. Flenniken. She will investigate the role of the RNAi machinery in virus infection and attempt to limit virus production in the bees by priming their RNAi machinery with viral specific double-stranded RNA. Ms. Flenniken has been identifying the viruses present in the hives of San Francisco Hobby Beekeepers and research collaborators.

“Most bees have viruses, particularly common is Kashmir bee virus,” says UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen. “In fact, we’d be surprised to find a bee not carrying some type of virus.”

Mr. Mussen notes that honey bees are responsible for pollinating more than 100 U. S. crops, including fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. One-third of the American diet is pollinated by honey bees.

In addition to Kashmir bee virus, Ms. Flenniken hopes to investigate deformed wing virus, sacbrood virus, acute bee paralysis virus, chronic bee paralysis virus, black queen cell virus, and Israeli acute paralysis virus.

For Ms. Flenniken, bees sort of run in the family.

Her parents completed a beekeeping course at Iowa State University and gifted her with the equipment, including a hat and veil, bee brush, hive tool and “a lot of good beekeeping books,” she says.

“I think bees are really interesting and look forward to learning more about them. I am really excited about this research topic because it encompasses molecular biology, ecology, environmental science, and global food production and health,” she says.

Ms. Flenniken is supported by an A.P. Giannini Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for her work in RNAi. Her graduate work was supported by the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health; and the Louis V. and Norma Smith Fellowship, Department of Microbiology, Montana State University.

Häagen-Dazs, a unit of Nestle S.A. (NYSE: NSRGY [ADR]), last February gave UC Davis $100,000 to address the bee population decline with the money being spent on sustainable pollination research, target colony collapse disorder, and support a postdoctoral researcher.

Häagen-Dazs also launched a Web site (www.helpthehoneybees.com) and created an advisory board that includes UC Davis and University of Pennsylvania bee specialists.

(About the writer: Kathy Keatley Garvey is a communications specialist with the Department of Entomology at UC Davis.)


Comment Print Email

Comments on this story


The Bee Tree 8/12/08 10:10 AM
Help the honeybees! Prevent the loss of the world food supply. Learn how you can help cure Colony Collapse Disorder. What is the bee tree? thebeetree(dot)org












  • How to compete against Wal-Mart
  • Stockton mom turns a need into a business
  • The entrepreneur is in
  • Writing her own success story
  • Growing a small business the family way
  • The future pencils positive for this company
  • Niche marketing -- Italian style
  • Sipping success with niche marketing
  • Roasting a business out of his passion
  • Success as an independent consultant takes more than expertise
  • Avoiding the traps of employee law violations
  • Cracking the voice-over market
  • The American Dream realized, one package at a time
  • Female winemaker plunges into business
  • A new take on nurse education
  • Family sees moving business success
  • STEM thrives in pockets of education innovation
  • STEM goes solar in Stockton
  • Quick! There’s a robot in my pool
  • Retiring seniors can mean new business
  • Predawn biotech class trains next generation of science workers
  • Staying ahead of the competition the old fashioned way
  • Central Valley sees mismatch between high-tech jobs and job seekers
  • STEM starts young
  • Get ready – the future is here now
  • STEM Education: Growing the Valley's Future
  • They’re low power in wattage only, not ideas
  • Thinking success spawns Successful Thinkers
  • Small business success can mean finding the right niche
  • This franchise has real muscle behind it
  • Getting the scoop on small business success
  • Reshoring could rebuild America's manufacturing
  • Marketing that’s deliberately anchored to the past
  • Guitar artist plays his way to success
  • Paralysis no handicap for this entrepreneur
  • Boost sales with better communication
  • Making sandwiches sexy with a franchise
  • Going solar without spending a lot of money
  • They’re cute and cuddly. But are they a business?
  • Opportunity sails forth in the Delta
  • How bad etiquette on the job could kill your career
  • Growing their way out of hunger and poverty
  • Finding small business success from floor to ceiling
  • Why he’s public enemy #1 – for gophers
  • Running a home-based business successfully
  • Your boss needs a vacation – really
  • Couple makes transition from big corporations to small business
  • Carving a small business niche with a better idea
  • Calm is the goal of computer service and education franchisor
  • Developer squeezing new life into downtown with juice franchise
  • Signs of a recovering economy
  • How to keep a family business in the family
  • Ford dealership expands despite the Great Recession
  • Utility Telephone connects with customer service
  • Crowdfunding basics
  • The roar from crowdfunding is getting louder
  • California water wars’ bulldog
  • Water wars heat up in California
  • Helping businesses grow with a stronger STEM
  • How to retain your best employees
  • Small business runs success up the pole
  • Winery expands in Lodi
  • Lodi wineries tapping into growing Chinese market
  • Has the jobs picture brightened for the Valley for 2012?
  • The right education will be needed for 21st Century jobs
  • Where new jobs for San Joaquin will come from
  • Developing jobs for San Joaquin – Part 2
  • Developing jobs for San Joaquin
  • Fruits of his labor
  • Helping grow food security in the Valley of plenty
  • Doing a business turnaround despite the recession
  • Keeping customers loyal helps build her business
  • Expo exposes businesses to utility contracting ideas
  • Drink mix maker taps expertise to blend success
  • Entrepreneur finds success in a basket
  • Tips for catching resume fraud
  • There’s no checking out for this small business owner
  • Entrepreneurs take Valley sports play-by-play to the world
  • Starting a winery from scratch
  • Job hunting tips for the long-term unemployed
  • In the Central Valley, opera isn’t always the Grand Ole Opry
  • Branding ideas for small businesses
  • The ump’s not blind, but the players are
  • Finding success by tapping your brain in a new way - Part Two
  • Finding success by tapping your brain in a new way
  • Machines talking to machines is the future
  • Getting involved in the fight against AIDS
  • Franchised divorce says it’s a better way
  • Small business owner is brewing a success story
  • To beat the Great Recession, they’ve expanded
  • Taking a swing at strokes
  • Alert your taste buds – here comes Taste of San Joaquin
  • This franchise has real muscle behind it
  • Passion for his city drives him
  • Vicente Fox speaks out on U.S.-Mexico relations
  • Give your support staff recognition and reap top performance
  • Central Valley baker gets top honors for Royal Wedding pie
  • Asparagus Festival ends on high note
  • Stockton close to annual ‘tipping’ point
  • Framing small business success
  • Small business sees Affordable Care Act helping its bottom line
  • What you eat – and when – helps local restaurants
  • Coping with the aftermath of foreclosure
  • How to raise charming children
  • Central Valley grad school goes all-iPads
  • Solution to Delta water wars voiced
  • Making sure your personal bottom line is covered
  • Small California winemaker is all family
  • Small winery relies on family and innovation to compete
  • Central Valley company says it has a better way to store solar power
  • What’s wrong -- and right -- about local TV news
  • What planning means to small business success
  • Making the leap to small business
  • Out of work at middle age? Experts offer advice
  • Small business marketing, one article at a time
  • Congress on your corner as it’s supposed to be
  • Central Valley city’s heritage rediscovered
  • Central Valley school is building students’ foundations
  • Job tips from the expert
  • Long-term jobless worker re-invents himself
  • Building a new power plant means jobs for Central Valley
  • Sacramento reaches for the stars with new science center
  • Lodi Chamber opens China’s doors to small business
  • Writing books for fun – and sometimes profit
  • Black Friday shopping? How to protect yourself from scams
  • California winemakers can find added rewards overseas
  • Wine makers tap overseas markets from Lodi
  • A new revenue stream for Central Valley small businesses
  • Food bank seeks more business support
  • Tips for finding a job in the Great Recession
  • State may solve some of its prison woes with new Stockton facility
  • A solution to underwater mortgages
  • Should public libraries be managed by private firms?
  • Central Valley moves ahead with critical water project
  • Dee Dee Myers and the increasing impact of women on small business
  • How women are growing their small businesses
  • A market with a mission
  • Retailer 'paints' solutions to cash flow challenge
  • An answer for the unemployed – return to school
  • A ‘golden’ small business success story
  • Central Valley winegrapes blessed
  • Rubbing out the recession with a franchise
  • Surviving the recession as a small business
  • It’s personal, union says of Stockton fire cuts
  • How old it too old to start a new business?
  • They've found the recipe for small business success
  • MBA students help revive Central Valley farmers market
  • Classic wooden yachts anchor in Stockton for weekend
  • Foreclosures, short sales – a bank president comments
  • The strength of family helps this small business compete
  • Festival spears success in Central Valley
  • Social media helps keep family business prospering
  • Central Valley students get training in ‘green’ futures
  • Knives readied as Valley cities slash services
  • Central Valley jobless picture still grim
  • Delta residents told to ready for water war
  • Opportunities outlined for Central Valley small businesses
  • Rewiring your brain for success
  • Central Valley no longer ‘shell shocked’ by recession
  • To fix California’s government, look to London
  • Taking your sales pitch to the next level