Category Archives: News

MSWCC 2015

The Royal Agricutural University, Cirencester

The Royal Agricutural University, Cirencester

I spent Friday and Saturday attending the Midland and South West Counties Convention at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester. It was a good venue for a meeting, complemented by an interesting and entertaining programme of talks. I discussed our developing story about the influence of Varroa on the transmission of pathogenic strains of deformed wing virus, together with brief coverage of both high and low-tech solutions that might be useful in controlling the detrimental impact of the mite on the virus population. On the Saturday I donned my beekeepers hat (veil?) and discussed queenright queen rearing methods … lots of stakeholder engagement to keep the funders happy 😉

There were some excellent presentations on the use of pollen in forensic studies (Michael Keith-Lucas) and the use of nucleus hives (Bob Smith). I had to leave early to make sure I caught my cancelled train to Swindon (“too many passengers”), the delayed connection to Paddington (“waiting for staff to turn up”), the slow running Heathrow Express (“engineering work”) and so missed my flight back to Edinburgh … all part of the rich outreach experience.

Somerset BKA lecture day

DWV symptoms

DWV symptoms

I’m delighted to be sharing the programme with Michael Palmer and Celia Davies at the Somerset BKA lecture day this Saturday (21st February ’15). I’ll be adding a small bit of science to the day and no doubt benefiting significantly from their wealth of beekeeping expertise. It should be a very enjoyable event.

Update – it was a very enjoyable event.  Aside from a few audio problems with a misbehaving microphone a packed hall enjoyed two talks by Celia Davies on Summer and Winter Bees and A World of Scents and a further two from Michael Palmer on the Sustainable Apiary and Queen rearing. If you’ve not heard Michael talk about the importance of overwintering nucs for sustainable beekeeping then you should either try and catch him on his current UK tour or watch him deliver the talk at the National Honey Show on YouTube. I think I’ve heard the talk three times now and have learnt something new every time. All the talks – including our contribution on the science of Varroa and deformed wing virus – generated lots of questions and discussions. With thanks to Sharon Blake for the invitation and organisation of the day.

Honey gifts

The University of Warwick is 50 years old in 2015. As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations attendees at the launch event were given “goody bags” containing, amongst other things, a small jar of honey from hives kept on campus or in the neighbouring farmland. Each carried a small tag advertising the honeybee research conducted in our lab …

Going viral

All publicity is good publicity, right?

Not necessarily

I think the pained expression was caused by a combination of three things:

  1. An audio feed that nearly ruptured my right eardrum
  2. The inevitable Should we be concerned? question about Ebola*
  3. The interminable delay getting through the roadworks onto campus

* yes, we should be concerned. We should be concerned for the people in West Africa experiencing this devastating outbreak. We should be doing more, individually and at a governmental level. However, the real question being asked is usually a truncation of Should we be concerned that there will be an outbreak here? In which case the answer is “No”. We have all the things Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone lack … we are a wealthy country, we have an excellent healthcare system, we have a reasonably well-educated population who generally trust the authorities and healthcare professionals, we have excellent infrastructure. A recent paper in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases details the economic and ecological factors that have contributed to this current outbreak in West Africa.

Ebola can be controlled and outbreaks eradicated using a combination of well-established methods in contact tracing, patient isolation and barrier protection. These methods have worked in all previous outbreaks. They will work in this outbreak (they have already worked in containing the spillover cases in Nigeria), but the longer it takes until they are effectively applied, the more cases that will occur.

New BBSRC grant

We’re delighted to have been awarded a new BBSRC grant for studies of “The biology and pathogenesis of Deformed Wing Virus, the major virus pathogen of honeybees“. These studies will help us understand the enhanced virulence of particular strains of DWV and to determine how effective antiviral therapies may be developed.

Hives and himalayan balsam

Hives and himalayan balsam

Wood et al., 2014

Recently accepted for publication

Wood et al., (2014) MosaicSolver: a tool for determining recombinants of viral genomes from pileup data. Nucleic Acids Research (in press)


Viral recombination is a key evolutionary mechanism, aiding escape from host immunity, changes in tropism and possibly transmission across species barriers. Determining whether recombination has occurred and the specific recombination points is thus of major importance in understanding emerging diseases and pathogenesis. This paper describes a method for determining recombinant mosaics (and their proportions) originating from two parent genomes, using high-throughput sequence data. The method involves setting the problem geometrically and the use of appropriately constrained quadratic programming. Recombinants of the honeybee deformed wing virus and the Varroa destructor virus-1 are inferred to illustrate the method, using siRNAs and sequence data sampling the viral genome population (cDNA library). Matlab software (MosaicSolver) is available.