Queen Bees Shown to Pass Viruses to Their
Offspring By Alfredo Flores December 11, 2006
The first evidence that viruses can be transmitted vertically from
mother queens to their offspring in honey bee colonies has been discovered by
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Evans, Anita Collins and
Feldlaufer in Beltsville, Md., made the discovery by testing individual
queen bees and their offspring for deformed wing virus, sacbrood virus and
black queen cell virus.
The finding, reported earlier this year in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, will
be discussed this week at the annual meeting of the
Entomological Society of America in
The researchers examined queen feces and various tissues including
hemolymph, heads, guts spermatheca and ovaries. Tissues of gut, ovaries and
spermatheca, as well as the feces, were found to carry viral infections. In a
separate study, the virus status of queens and their offspring was examined
simultaneously. Once viruses in the queen bees were identified, the same
viruses were found in their offspring, including eggs, larvae and adult
According to Chen and her colleagues, this information is invaluable
for improving understanding of the epidemiology of virus infections in honey
bees. It could be used to predict bee colonies at risk of virus infection,
which, in turn, would contribute to the development of effective
Honey bees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of U.S. crops each
year. The health of honey bee colonies is continuously threatened by various
pathogens, with viruses posing an unknown risk because of lack of information
concerning transmission and outbreaks.
The Entomological Society of America, founded in 1889, has more than
5,700 members and is the largest organization of entomologists in the world.
More than 2,000 entomologists and other scientists are expected to attend this
Chen, Pettis and Evans are with the ARS
Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. Collins, formerly with the lab, is
now retired. Feldlaufer, formerly with the lab, is now research leader of the
Affecting Insect Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.