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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Adapted tolerance to virus infections in four geographically distinct Varroa destructor-resistant honeybee populations

Locke, Barbara; Thaduri, Srinivas; Stephan, Joerg G.; Low, Matthew; Blacquiere, Tjeerd; Dahle, Bjorn; Le Conte, Yves; Neumann, Peter; de Miranda, Joachim R.


The ectoparasitic mite, Varroa destructor, is unarguably the leading cause of honeybee (Apis mellifera) mortality worldwide through its role as a vector for lethal viruses, in particular, strains of the Deformed wing virus (DWV) and Acute bee paralysis virus (ABPV) complexes. Several honeybee populations across Europe have well-documented adaptations of mite-resistant traits but little is known about host adaptations towards the virus infections vectored by the mite. The aim of this study was to assess and compare the possible contribution of adapted virus tolerance and/or resistance to the enhanced survival of four well-documented mite-resistant honeybee populations from Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands and France, in relation to unselected mite-susceptible honeybees. Caged adult bees and laboratory reared larvae, from colonies of these four populations, were inoculated with DWV and ABPV in a series of feeding infection experiments, while control groups received virus-free food. Virus infections were monitored using RT-qPCR assays in individuals sampled over a time course. In both adults and larvae the DWV and ABPV infection dynamics were nearly identical in all groups, but all mite-resistant honeybee populations had significantly higher survival rates compared to the mite-susceptible honeybees. These results suggest that adapted virus tolerance is an important component of survival mechanisms.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2021, Volume: 11, number: 1, article number: 12359