Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture report what may be the first evidence of queen honeybees transmitting viruses to their offspring. They report their findings in the January 2006 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Honeybees contribute greatly to the annual 15 billion dollar agriculture market by assisting in the pollination of a wide variety of crops. The health of honeybee colonies is continuously threatened by various pathogens, with viruses posing the greatest risk due to lack of information concerning transmission and outbreaks.
In the study feces and tissue (including hemolymph, gut, ovaries, spermatheca, head, and eviscerated body) of individual queen bees were tested for viral presence. All tissue forms but one, as well as feces, were found to carry viral infections. Once the viruses in the queen bees were identified, their offspring (including eggs, larvae and adult workers) were tested and found to carry the same viruses.
"The present study, using the sensitive RT-PCR method, demonstrated the vertical transmission of multiple viruses from mother queens to their offspring by two findings: first, the presence of viruses in queen excretion and queen tissues, particularly in the tissue of ovaries; and second, detection of the same viruses in queens' eggs and young larvae that are not normally associated with V. destructor, which is an important vector of bee viruses," say the researchers.
(Y.P. Chen, J.S. Pettis, A. Collins, M.F. Feldlaufer. 2006. Prevalence and transmission of honeybee viruses. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 72. 1: 606-611.)
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Contact: Carrie Patterson
American Society for Microbiology