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Honey bee viruses in unexpected places

Colwell MJ, Currie RW, Pernal SF (2016) Honey bee viruses in unexpected places. XXV International Congress of Entomology 2016, 25-30 Sept 2016, Orlando, FL. doi:10.1603/ICE.2016.115026  Access to full text


Introduction: Although there are many insect pollinators, European honey bees (Apis mellifera) are arguably the most economically important and recognizable of the commercial pollinators. However, higher than normal losses in the past decade have put the honey bee industry at risk. Viruses are likely one of the key factors in honey bee health. Little work has been done to explore the possible role of wax comb, the substrate on which all hive activities take place, as an element in virus transmission. This study explores various routes of transmission of viruses between honey bees and wax comb. Methods: Bees used in experiments originated from two sources, high Varroa (high virus, n=8) and low Varroa (low virus, n=8) colonies. Bees were homogenized together based on treatment and then introduced into cages. There were eight cages per treatment, which were maintained at 75% RH and 30°C in incubators for at least six days. Wax was washed to extract RNA, and RT-qPCR was used for absolute quantification of viruses. Results/Conclusion: Transmission routes examined included worker to wax through general contact, comb construction, and fresh wax flakes. In a previous study, honey bee viruses were present on wax comb from dead colonies. This means wax comb has the potential to be a source or sink of honey bee viruses, including the potential to vector viruses within and among honey bee colonies. This is a novel component of honey bee virus epidemiology, and the first time honey bee viruses have been detected on wax comb.

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