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Title: Small hive beetle, Aethina tumida, is a potential biological vector of honeybee viruses.

item Chen, Yanping - Judy
item Pettis, Jeffery

Submitted to: Apidologie
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/25/2008
Publication Date: 11/21/2008
Citation: Eyer, M., Chen, Y., Pettis, J.S., Neumann, P. 2008. Small hive beetle, Aethina tumida, is a potential biological vector of honeybee viruses. Apidologie. 40:419-428.

Interpretive Summary: The small hive beetle (SHB) is a destructive pest of honey bees, causing damage to comb, stored honey and pollen. Because SHBs feed and move in honey bee colonies, they have the potential to act as a vector to transmit viruses from infected bees to healthy bees. We conducted experiments to investigate the ability of SHV in transmitting deformed wing virus (DWV) among honey bees. We demonstrated that SHB could become virus positive by feeding on DWV infected honey bees and virus contaminated foods such as honey and pollen. Our results also showed that DWV could replicate in SHB, indicating the potential of infected SHB to transmit the virus to healthy bees. This research adds additional importance to the SHB control and will be of interest to the beekeeping community at large.

Technical Abstract: The small hive beetle (SHB) is a parasite and scavenger of honeybee colonies. Here, we conducted laboratory experiments to investigate the potential of SHB as a vector of honeybee viruses. Using RT-PCR methods, Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) was detected in adult SHBs that: 1) were fed with dead workers with deformed wings, 2) were fed with DWV-positive brood, and 3) were associated with DWV-contaminated wax. SHB got significantly more often infected through feeding on virus infected workers, brood and the virus contaminated wax compared to pollen and the controls, where no infections were found. DWV was also detected in adult SHB after trophallaxis with infected workers. Further, among SHBs identified as DWV-positive, 40% of the beetles carried negative stranded DWV–RNA, indicating virus replication. Our results suggest that SHB can be infected with honeybee viruses via food-borne transmission and then has the potential to act as a biological vector for transmission of honeybee viruses.