Quantitative and Qualitative Changes in the Deformed Wing Virus Population in Honey Bees Associated with the Introduction or Removal of Varroa destructor.

Luke Woodford* (Corresponding Author), Craig R Christie, Ewan M Campbell, Giles E Budge, Alan S Bowman, David J Evans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Varroa destructor is an ectoparasitic mite associated with significant losses of honeybee colonies globally. The mite vectors a range of pathogenic viruses, the most important of which is the Deformed wing virus (DWV). In the absence of Varroa, DWV exists as a low-level, highly diverse virus population. However, when transmitted by Varroa, certain variants become highly elevated, and may become near-clonal and cause symptomatic infections. Mite transmission between colonies can occur when parasitised workers drift from or rob adjacent hives. These activities can result in elevated mite levels, but the resulting change in the DWV population, the primary determinant of winter colony losses, has not been determined. In reciprocal studies, we investigated the influence of the removal of mites, or their acquisition, on the DWV population. When mites were removed from heavily infested colonies, there was a striking and rapid reduction in virus load. Conversely, siting Varroa-naïve colonies in a mite-infested apiary resulted in the acquisition of mites and concomitant changes in the virus population. We observed both near-clonal and highly divergent virus populations regardless of titre, suggesting changes were stochastic and colony-specific. Our findings have implications for the outcome of strategies in areas with total or patchy implementation of Varroa control plans.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1597
Number of pages17
Issue number8
Early online date22 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Data Availability Statement: All of the NGS data files used in this paper are publicly available in the SRA (short read archive) of NCBI, which is accessible under BioProject ID: PRJNA811438.
Acknowledgments: We would like to thank Amy Cooper (University of Aberdeen) for assistance with fieldwork and sample collection, and Kirsten Bentley (University of St Andrews) and Olesya Gusachenko (University of St Andrews) for the high practical and moral support throughout the project.


  • Animals
  • Bees
  • RNA Viruses
  • Seasons
  • Varroidae


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