"When individuals that live in extended family groups- such as honeybees- the entire society is vulnerable to infection of just a single colony-member, as the same networks that are optimised for efficient transmission of information or food, may be hijacked by the pathogen. Nevertheless, mechanisms have evolved to reduce the spread of disease across social or communication networks. For example, infected ants commit altruistic suicide by removing themselves from the colony entirely. Similarly, the organisational structure of the contact network itself can mitigate disease spread through compartmentalisation. These strategies serve to reduce transmission by lowering the probability of direct contact between infected and uninfected individuals or groups. Indeed, to date, all studies on disease transmission within animal societies have focused entirely on networks in which the links represent direct physical contact.
Worldwide, honeybee populations are suffering a rapid decline (Colony Collapse Disorder), and the causative factor(s) are unknown. Several honeybee parasites implicated in CCD, do not require direct contact between individuals to jump host. This project will focus on the potential for indirect disease transmission in the honeybee.
An infected individual that moves through the nest could potentially deposit a pathogen anywhere along its path. So even if two individuals never physically encounter each other, if both repeatedly revisit the same place at different times, there may still be a significant risk transmission between them. I will identify the areas within the nest that are visited by large numbers of disparate individuals, as it is these popular and public ‘hot spot’ areas that are likely to be critical for the indirect transmission of pathogens. It is important to understand indirect transmission objective will be to develop guidelines for beekeepers so that they may focus hygiene and disease control efforts on these areas."
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