Meet Michelle Flenniken.
She’s an insect virus researcher in professor Raul Andino's lab, UC San Francisco Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and she's the newly selected Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis.
You know those nasty viruses that target our honey bees? With names like Kashmir bee virus, deformed wing virus, sacbrood virus, acute bee paralysis virus, chronic bee paralysis virus, black queen cell virus, and Israeli acute paralysis virus?
She’s targeting them.
“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,” said Lynn Kimsey, chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Flenniken, who received her doctorate in microbiology in 2006 from Montana State University, will continue working in the Andino lab and also with researchers at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
Skilled in multidisciplinary research (molecular biology, microbiology, chemistry and cell biology), Flenniken is focusing on the biology of honeybee viruses, specifically the role of RNA interference (RNAi) in the honeybee antiviral immune responses. RNAi is a mechanism that inhibits gene expression.
Lately she's has been identifying the viruses present in the hives of San Francisco Hobby Beekeepers and research collaborators.
Viruses are not difficult to find. “Most bees have viruses, particularly common is Kashmir bee virus,” said UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen. “In fact, we’d be surprised to find a bee not carrying some type of virus.”
We thank Häagen-Dazs for their concern. Like all of us, Häagen-Dazs loves honey bees. The company, which depends on bees to pollinate the fruits, nuts and berries used in its ice cream, announced in February it would donate a total of $250,000 to UC Davis and Penn State to address the bee population decline. Very welcome, indeed!
Häagen-Dazs’s Web site, www.helpthehoneybees.com/, offers an insight into how much we need the bees and what we can do to help. It links to a UC Davis Web site where folks can donate online to save the bees. (See "Save the Honey Bees" under "Quick Links" at http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/home.cfm)
Three of our UC Davis scientists--Mussen, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, and entomologist Michael Parrella, associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences--serve on the company's advisory board.
Did you catch the full-page Häagen-Dazs ad in the June 9th edition of Newsweek? The headline says it all: “Honey, please don’t go!”