Virus-infected plants are more alluring to bumble bees
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Virus-infected plants are more alluring to bumble bees

Bumble bees have a thing for tomato plants, especially if they’re harboring a destructive virus. That’s the curious finding of a new study, in which researchers released the insects into spaces that contained either normal tomato plants or those infected with the cucumber mosaic virus (CMV). CMV alters the gene expression of the tomato plants it infects, stunting their growth and distorting their leaves, and it can cause severe losses of crops worldwide. It also causes the plant to emit a different scent than noninfected tomatoes, researchers report today in PLOS Pathogens. The scent appears to make a difference; the bees were more likely to visit infected plants than noninfected plants, and they spent more time buzzing around them. That preference likely keeps the virus going in tomato plants, according to a mathematical model the team developed. The team says further research could lead to ways to increase bee pollination of important crops.