Honeybees (Apis mellifera) are the most valuable pollinators of natural and human ecosystems, but they are currently experiencing a wide range of threats, from pesticides and parasites to human-mediated landscape changes. Viruses are particularly worrisome as they are ubiquitous and can cause a wide range of consequences for honeybee colonies. One of these viruses, DWV, has been particularly studied for the dramatic effects that it causes in infected bees (deformed wings, bloated abdomens, winter mortality) and also for more subtle implications such as cognitive impairment and disruption of foraging behaviour.
We aim to characterise how DWV infection in the brain affects honeybee cognition, using bioinformatic analysis of brain gene expression as a proxy to detect and quantify cognitive impairment. A combination of transcriptomic analyses and advanced computational approaches can provide a snapshot of the expression of all genes in the honeybee brain. These data can be linked to the quantification of viral loads and cognitive performance that we previously recorded for the same individuals.