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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Disentangling host-parasite-pathogen interactions in a varroa-resistant honeybee population reveals virus tolerance as an independent, naturally adapted survival mechanism

Thaduri, Srinivas; Stephan, Jorg G.; de Miranda, Joachim R.; Locke, Barbara


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. This multi-level system of host-parasite-pathogen interactions makes it difficult to investigate effects of either the mite or the virus on natural host survival. The aim of this study was to remove confounding effects of varroa to examine the role of virus susceptibility in the enhanced survival of a naturally adapted Swedish mite-resistant (MR) honeybee population, relative to mite-susceptible (MS) honeybees. Caged adult bees and laboratory reared larvae, from varroa-free colonies, 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 between MR and MS groups, but MS adults suffered significantly higher mortality than MR adults. Results suggest virus tolerance, rather than reduced susceptibility or virus resistance, is an important component of the natural survival of this honeybee population.


honeybees; Apis mellifera; parasites; ectoparasitic mites; Varroa destructor; mite-resistance; virus resistance; RT-qPCR assays

Published in

Scientific Reports
2019, Volume: 9, article number: 6221