Replication of honey bee-associated RNA viruses across multiple bee species in apple orchards of Georgia, Germany and Kyrgyzstan

J Invertebr Pathol. 2017 Jun:146:14-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jip.2017.04.002. Epub 2017 Apr 6.


The essential ecosystem service of pollination is provided largely by insects, which are considered threatened by diverse biotic and abiotic global change pressures. RNA viruses are one such pressure, and have risen in prominence as a major threat for honey bees (Apis mellifera) and global apiculture, as well as a risk factor for other bee species through pathogen spill-over between managed honey bees and sympatric wild pollinator communities. Yet despite their potential role in global bee decline, the prevalence of honey bee-associated RNA viruses in wild bees is poorly known from both geographic and taxonomic perspectives. We screened members of pollinator communities (honey bees, bumble bees and other wild bees belonging to four families) collected from apple orchards in Georgia, Germany and Kyrgyzstan for six common honey bee-associated RNA virus complexes encompassing nine virus targets. The Deformed wing virus complex (DWV genotypes A and B) had the highest prevalence across all localities and host species and was the only virus complex found in wild bee species belonging to all four studied families. Based on amplification of negative-strand viral RNA, we found evidence for viral replication in wild bee species of DWV-A/DWV-B (hosts: Andrena haemorrhoa and several Bombus spp.) and Black queen cell virus (hosts: Anthophora plumipes, several Bombus spp., Osmia bicornis and Xylocopa spp.). Viral amplicon sequences revealed that DWV-A and DWV-B are regionally distinct but identical in two or more bee species at any one site, suggesting virus is shared amongst sympatric bee taxa. This study demonstrates that honey bee associated RNA viruses are geographically and taxonomically widespread, likely infective in wild bee species, and shared across bee taxa.

Keywords: ABPV; Apis mellifera; Bombus; CBPV; DWV-A; DWV-B; Pathogen; SBPV; SBV; Wild bee.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / virology*
  • Insect Viruses / classification
  • Insect Viruses / genetics*
  • Insect Viruses / isolation & purification
  • RNA Viruses / genetics
  • RNA Viruses / isolation & purification
  • Species Specificity
  • Virus Replication

Supplementary concepts

  • Deformed wing virus