Michelle Flenniken on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Michelle Flenniken is an Assistant Professor in the Plant Sciences Department at Montana State University. She is a microbiologist investigating honey bee host–pathogen interactions and Co-Director of the Pollinator Health Center at MSU. Michelle received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Iowa, then was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana, before obtaining her Ph.D. in Microbiology from Montana State University. She did postdoctoral research at the University of California, San Francisco prior to becoming a faculty member at MSU.

Listen in to learn how viruses affect pollinators, how virologists study them, and which ways beekeepers can best protect their colonies from infection.

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“When you think about a bee colony, it’s a great place for viral infections. They’re really crowded, if you think of honeybees, there’s over 40,000 individuals crawling all over each other.” – Michelle Flenniken

Show Notes:

  • How pollinators can get infected by viruses
  • The difference between horizontal and vertical transmission
  • Why monitoring your mite infestations can help minimize viral transmissions
  • How virologists have been studying and finding these myriad viruses
  • What common viruses affect United States pollinators
  • How the names of the viruses are determined
  • The process of infection with viruses and pollinators
  • How beekeepers can best test their colonies for viral infections
  • What beekeepers can do to reduce the damage caused by viruses
  • What Michelle sees as some of the most exciting research in virology right now
  • The evolution of how bees fend off viruses
  • How different RNA strands are used to create defenses against viruses

“I think that many of us get human centric when we start thinking about viruses and pathogens and we think that there are specific viruses that infect humans and those that affect other animals, but for insects and plant viruses, viruses can have a broader host range which include completely different genre.” – Michelle Flenniken

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