Pathogens as Predictors of Honey Bee Colony Strength in England and Wales

PLoS One. 2015 Jul 17;10(7):e0133228. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0133228. eCollection 2015.


Inspectors with the UK National Bee Unit were asked for 2007-2008 to target problem apiaries in England and Wales for pathogen screening and colony strength measures. Healthy colonies were included in the sampling to provide a continuum of health conditions. A total of 406 adult bee samples was screened and yielded 7 viral, 1 bacterial, and 2 microsporidial pathogens and 1 ectoparasite (Acarapis woodi). In addition, 108 samples of brood were screened and yielded 4 honey bee viruses. Virus prevalence varied from common (deformed wing virus, black queen cell virus) to complete absence (Israeli acute paralysis virus). When colonies were forced into one of two classes, strong or weak, the weak colonies contained more pathogens in adult bees. Among observed pathogens, only deformed wing virus was able to predict colony strength. The effect was negative such that colonies testing positive for deformed wing virus were likely to have fewer combs of bees or brood. This study constitutes the first record for Nosema ceranae in Great Britain. These results contribute to the growing body of evidence linking pathogens to poor honey bee health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Bees / microbiology*
  • Bees / parasitology*
  • Bees / virology
  • Colony Collapse / microbiology*
  • Colony Collapse / parasitology*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • England
  • Honey*
  • Seasons
  • Time Factors
  • Wales
  • Wings, Animal / virology