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.
|Number of pages||17|
|Early online date||22 Jul 2022|
|Publication status||Published - 22 Jul 2022|
- RNA Viruses