Which are the most common bee viruses in Austria and are these viruses related to winter losses of local bee colonies? To answer these questions, 200 beekeepers from all over Austria are working as Citizen Scientists in the "virus monitoring" for three years (2018-2020). Each year in September they collect bees from five of their colonies and send them to AGES, Department of Apiculture and Bee Protection. In addition, they report the winter losses of their colonies. The samples are analysed for eight important bee viruses and checked whether the occurrence and severity of the virus infections are related to winter losses. The beekeepers are provided with the virus analyses of their colonies and thus learn more about the health status of their bee colonies.
According to current scientific knowledge, bee viruses, such as the deformed wing virus and the acute bee paralysis virus, are partly responsible for high winter losses. However, other viruses, such as the sacbrood virus or the chronic bee paralysis virus, also cause problems for bee colonies. Unfortunately, we currently only have selective knowledge about the occurrence and frequency of these bee viruses in Austria. Up to now, viruses have usually only been tested, when damage to bee colonies has already occurred. Research results from the USA and neighbouring European countries have shown, that many viruses occur just as frequently in inconspicuously appearing colonies as in clearly damaged ones. In order to make a statement about the frequency of bee viruses, both conspicuous and inconspicuous colonies must therefore be examined (= a representative selection).
"Virus monitoring" is a module of the project "Zukunft Biene 2", which is investigating Austria's bee health from 2017-2021 under the lead of Dr. Robert Brodschneider of the Karl-Franzens-University Graz. Research partners in the project are the University of Graz, AGES and University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. The project is financed by the Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism (BMNT), the Austrian Federal Provinces, the beekeepers' umbrella organisation "Biene Österreich" as well as in kind contributions of the Karl-Franzens-University Graz, Vetmeduni Vienna and AGES.