RNAseq of deformed wing virus and other honey bee-associated viruses in eight insect taxa with or without varroa infestation

Laura E. Brettell, Declan C. Schroeder, Stephen J. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The global spread of a parasitic mite (Varroa destructor) has resulted in Deformed wing virus (DWV), a previously rare pathogen, now dominating the viromes in honey bees and contributing to large-scale honey bee colony losses. DWV can be found in diverse insect taxa and has been implicated in spilling over from honey bees into associated (“apiary”) and other (“non-apiary”) insects. Here we generated next generation sequence data from 127 insect samples belonging to diverse taxa collected from Hawaiian islands with and without Varroa to identify whether the mite has indirectly affected the viral landscapes of key insect taxa across bees, wasps, flies and ants. Our data showed that, while Varroa was associated with a dramatic increase in abundance of (predominantly recombinant) DWV in honey bees (and no other honey bee-associated RNA virus), this change was not seen in any other taxa sampled. Honey bees share their environment with other insect populations and exist as a homogenous group, frequently sharing common viruses, albeit at low levels. Our data suggest that the threat of Varroa to increase viral load in an apiary does not automatically translate to an increase in virus load in other insects living in the wider community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1229
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), CB Dennis Trust and Bee Disease Insurance; LEB received funding from the University of Salford Pathway to Excellence Scheme.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Deformed wing virus
  • Honey bee
  • Hymenoptera
  • Spillover
  • Varroa
  • Virome
  • Viruses


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