The strong association between Varroa destructor, deformed wing virus (DWV), and high overwintering colony losses (OCL) of honey bees is well established. Three DWV master variants (DWV-A, -B, and -C) have been described, and their role in colony mortality remains an open question. Therefore, the aim of this study is to investigate the seasonal prevalence, viral load, and changing distribution of the three DWV master variants within honey bee colonies from England, Wales, and 32 states across the United States. Here, we report that in 2016, DWV-B was prevalent (100%, n = 249) and dominant (95%) in England and Wales, compared to the US. (56%, n = 217 and 23%, respectively), where DWV-A was prevalent (83%, n = 217) and dominant (63%). DWV-C was regularly detected in low viral loads (<1 × 107 genome equivalents per bee) and at lower prevalence (58% in England and Wales, n = 203, and 14% across the United States, n = 124) compared to DWV-A and -B. DWV-B prevalence and dominance in England and Wales coincided with low OCL (6%). Meanwhile, a 60% loss was reported by participating U.S. beekeepers. In the United States, DWV-A prevalence (89%, n = 18) and viral load were significantly (p = 0.002) higher (1 × 10 8-1 × 1011) in colonies that died when compared to the surviving colonies (49% (n = 27), 1 × 106-1 × 1010). DWV-B had low prevalence (56%, n = 18) in the colonies that died with viral loads of <1 × 1010. However, DWV-B was routinely detected in high viral loads (>1 × 1010) in surviving colonies from all sample locations, providing further supporting evidence of DWV-A exhibiting increased virulence over DWV-B at the colony level.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Acknowledgments: The authors would like to thank Bee Disease Insurance LTD for funding Jessica L. Kevill, British Beekeepers Association, and their members, and the C.B. Dennis trust for support and contributing towards the purchase of equipment.
Funding: The U.K. research was funded by Bee Disease Insurance limited and the British Bee Keepers Association as part of the ReViVe project. Apis_M helped fund the U.S. part of the study.
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
- Abc assay
- Deformed wing virus
- Honey bees (apis mellifera)
- Overwinter colony loss