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Occurrence, detection, and quantification of economically important viruses in healthy and unhealthy honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) colonies in Canada

  • Suresh D. Desai (a1), Santosh Kumar (a2) (a3) and Robert W. Currie (a1)

The occurrence, quantification, and distribution patterns of deformed wing virus (DWV) and sacbrood virus (SBV), (family Iflaviridae); black queen cell virus (BQCV), Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), Kashmir bee virus (KBV), and acute bee paralysis virus (ABPV) (family Dicistroviridae), and chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV) (unclassified), were characterised in 80 “healthy” honey bee (Apis mellifera Linnaeus; Hymenoptera: Apidae) colonies and 23 “unhealthy” colonies by employing reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for virus identification and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) for quantification. All seven viruses were common but the most prevalent viruses were DWV, followed by BQCV and IAPV. For most viruses, prevalence in surviving but unhealthy colonies in spring did not differ from that of healthy baseline colony levels in fall suggesting spring prevalence level would not be a useful metric for diagnosis of factors contributing to colony loss. Sacbrood virus was the only virus that was more prevalent in unhealthy colonies from Manitoba, Canada than in healthy from colonies across Canada but did not differ from healthy colonies within Manitoba. Multiple infections were ubiquitous with a few colonies having simultaneous infection with as many as five viruses. Among the three viruses quantified by qPCR, DWV had the highest relative concentrations in pooled samples of worker bees. Deformed wing virus was the only virus within healthy colonies that differed in fall concentration among provinces and was at high levels in unhealthy colonies. Black queen cell virus was positively correlated with IAPV across all samples. Our study provides the first major baseline study of viruses in Canadian honey bees.

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Subject editor: Justin Schmidt

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