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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Virus Prevalence in Egg Samples Collected from Naturally Selected and Traditionally Managed Honey Bee Colonies across Europe

Bouuaert, David Claeys; De Smet, Lina; Brunain, Marleen; Dahle, Bjorn; Blacquiere, Tjeerd; Dalmon, Anne; Dezmirean, Daniel; Elen, Dylan; Filipi, Janja; Giurgiu, Alexandru; Gregorc, Ales; Kefuss, John; Locke, Barbara; de Miranda, Joachim R.; Oddie, Melissa; Panziera, Delphine; Parejo, Melanie; Pinto, Maria Alice; de Graaf, Dirk C.


Monitoring virus infections can be an important selection tool in honey bee breeding. A recent study pointed towards an association between the virus-free status of eggs and an increased virus resistance to deformed wing virus (DWV) at the colony level. In this study, eggs from both naturally surviving and traditionally managed colonies from across Europe were screened for the prevalence of different viruses. Screenings were performed using the phenotyping protocol of the 'suppressed in ovo virus infection' trait but with qPCR instead of end-point PCR and a primer set that covers all DWV genotypes. Of the 213 screened samples, 109 were infected with DWV, 54 were infected with black queen cell virus (BQCV), 3 were infected with the sacbrood virus, and 2 were infected with the acute bee paralyses virus. It was demonstrated that incidences of the vertical transmission of DWV were more frequent in naturally surviving than in traditionally managed colonies, although the virus loads in the eggs remained the same. When comparing virus infections with queen age, older queens showed significantly lower infection loads of DWV in both traditionally managed and naturally surviving colonies, as well as reduced DWV infection frequencies in traditionally managed colonies. We determined that the detection frequencies of DWV and BQCV in honey bee eggs were lower in samples obtained in the spring than in those collected in the summer, indicating that vertical transmission may be lower in spring. Together, these patterns in vertical transmission show that honey bee queens have the potential to reduce the degree of vertical transmission over time.


honey bee; suppressed in ovo virus infection; vertical transmission; virus resistance

Published in

2022, volume: 14, number: 11, article number: 2442
Publisher: MDPI

Authors' information

Bouuaert, David Claeys
Ghent University
De Smet, Lina
Ghent University
Brunain, Marleen
Ghent University
Dahle, Bjorn
Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Blacquiere, Tjeerd
Wageningen University and Research
Dalmon, Anne
Dezmirean, Daniel
University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj Napoca
Elen, Dylan
Bangor University
Filipi, Janja
University of Zadar
Giurgiu, Alexandru
University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj Napoca
Gregorc, Ales
University of Maribor
Kefuss, John
Le Rucher D’Oc
Locke, Barbara (Locke Grandér, Barbara)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Oddie, Melissa
Norwegian Beekeepers Association
Panziera, Delphine
Wageningen University and Research
Parejo, Melanie
University of Basque Country
Pinto, Maria Alice
Instituto Politecnico de Braganca
de Graaf, Dirk C.
Ghent University

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