Amanda Norton

Location: Room 250, Macleay Building A12 | Phone: 02 9351 3642 | Email:


A photo of  Amanda Norton

My background is in chemical ecology and I have been fascinated with honeybees since childhood. I undertook my Bachelor of Science (Chemistry and Biotechnology) and Honours at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), Queensland. In the USC Honey Laboratory, I worked on developing a novel method to quantitate active compounds in Australian Leptospermum nectar, to determine which plant species will produce honeys with non-peroxide antibacterial activity. My interest in honeybee host-pathogen interactions was initiated during my Honours research project in 2016. I investigated the chemical properties and repellent effects of Corymbia torelliana (Cadaghi) fruit resin, utilised by Australian stingless bees, on a honeybee pest (small hive beetle; Aethina tumida) and parasite (Varroa destructor).

I started my PhD in the Behaviour and Genetics of Social Insects Laboratory in March 2017, where I am supervised by Professor Madeleine Beekman and Dr Emily Remnant.

My PhD project is supported by an ARC Discovery grant (2017-2019: ‘What is killing the honeybees? The role of RNA viruses in the death of honeybee colonies’) and will investigate the relationship between the Western honeybee (Apis mellifera), RNA viruses and the ectoparasitic mite V. destructor.

Outside of Australia, many millions of managed and wild honeybee colonies have died globally over the past 50 years. One major factor attributed to these deaths is the worldwide spread of V. destructor and subsequent RNA viral infections, of which the mite is a known vector. Female mites feed on the bees’ haemolymph, facilitating horizontal transmission of viruses.

Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) is currently considered to be the most significant honeybee viruses worldwide. Previous studies indicate that viral titres and virulence are correlated with increased exposure to V. destructor, which suggests that V. destructor selects for increased virulence. Concurrently, there are rare and isolated reports of honeybee colonies resistant to V. destructor infestation.

Australia is currently the only major beekeeping country to be free of both V. destructor and DWV; however, authors have postulated that the introduction of V. destructor into Australia is inevitable. Therefore, the overall aim of my project is to further elucidate the relationship between V. destructor and DWV, and uncover what effect vector transmission has on DWV virulence and mechanisms of resistance in honeybees. This will be achieved with a combination of experimental and molecular techniques. Furthermore, my project aims to determine what effect V. destructor and DWV will have upon Australia’s naïve honeybees and contribute knowledge to a honeybee continuity strategy, should V. destructor and DWV become established in Australia.

Publications:

  • Norton, A. M., Mckenzie, L. N., Brooks, P. R. and Pappalardo, L. J. (2015). Quantitation of Dihydroxyacetone in Australian Leptospermum Nectar via High-Performance Liquid Chromatography. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 63, 6513-6517. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.5b01930.