Submitted to: Journal of Apicultural Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 28, 2009
Publication Date: August 5, 2009
Citation: Eyer, M., Chen, Y., Schaefer, M., Pettis, J.S., Neumann, P. 2009. Honeybee Sacbrood virus infects adult small hive beetles, Aethina tumida (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae). Journal of Apicultural Research. 48(4):296-297. Interpretive Summary: The small hive beetle (SHB) has been a destructive pest of honey bees since its recent introduction into the United States. Because the beetles feed on honey, pollen, bee eggs, and bee larvae, they have the potential to act as a vector for transmitting diseases from infected bees to healthy bees. We conducted experiments to investigate the transmission of a honey bee virus, Sacbrood virus (SBV) from virus infected brood to the beetle and demonstrated that the beetle could become infected by feeding on the virus positive bee brood. Our results also showed that the virus could replicate in the beetle, indicating the potential for infected beetles transmitting the virus from infected bees to healthy bees. This research adds additional importance to the beetles control and will be of interest to the beekeeping community at large.
Technical Abstract: The Small Hive Beetle (SHB) is a recently discovered pest that invades honey bee colonies and causes damage to comb, stored honey and pollen. A laboratory experiment was conducted to investigate whether SHB could harbor honey bee virus(es) via feeding on virus infected brood and thereby serving as a vector of viruses in honey bee colonies. By combining laboratory feeding assay and molecular analysis, we demonstrated for the first time that SHB could become infected with honey bee Sacbrood virus (SBV) via the food-borne transmission route. The detection of negative strand RNA of SBV, a key indication of active virus replication in the infected hosts, suggests that SHB is an alternative host for honey bee viruses and has the potential to serve as a biological vector for virus transmission in honey bee colonies. This study should raise awareness among scientists, beekeepers, and regulatory personnel to the threats of SHB not only for its directly negative impact on bee health but also for its ability to transmit viral diseases in bee colonies.