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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Stoneville, Mississippi » Biological Control of Pests Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #404952

Research Project: Biology and Control of Invasive Ants

Location: Biological Control of Pests Research

Title: Co-occurrence of Wing Deformity and Impaired Mobility of Alates with Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) in Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

item Miles, Godfrey
item Liu, Xiaofen - Fanny
item AMIRI, ESMAEIL - Mississippi State University
item Grodowitz, Michael
item Allen, Margaret - Meg
item Chen, Jian

Submitted to: Insects
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/22/2023
Publication Date: 9/27/2023
Citation: Miles, G.P., Liu, X.F., Amiri, E., Grodowitz, M.J., Allen, M.L., Chen, J. 2023. Co-occurrence of Wing Deformity and Impaired Mobility of Alates with Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) in Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Insects. 14.788.

Interpretive Summary: Deformed wing virus (DWV), a major honey bee pathogen found throughout the world. DWV, in association with the varroa mite, causes wing deformity, shortened abdomen, neurological impairments, leading to the mortality of millions of honey bee colonies worldwide. At least 12 ant species have shown to harbor DWV, including the red imported fire ant, one of the most invasive and detrimental pests in the world. To date, there have been no reports in the literature of DWV causing symptoms in ants. In this study, we observed the classic honey bee-like symptoms of deformed wings in laboratory and field colonies of the red imported fire ants and verified the presence and replication of DWV in the symptomatic ants. This is the first report of DWV-like symptoms in ants, indicating that fire ants may not only serving as a vector of DWV to bees, but also being detrimentally affected by this widely distributed bee virus.

Technical Abstract: Deformed wing virus (DWV), a major honey bee pathogen, is a generalist insect virus detected in diverse insect phyla, including numerous ant genera. Its clinical symptoms have only been reported in honey bees, bumble bees, and wasps. DWV is a quasispecies virus with three main variants, which, in association with the ectoparasitic mite, Varroa destructor, causes wing deformity, shortened abdomens, neurological impairments, and colony mortality in honey bees. The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, is one of the most-invasive and detrimental pests in the world. In this study, we report the co-occurrence of DWV-like symptoms in S. invicta and DWV for the first time and provide molecular evidence of viral replication in S. invicta. Some alates in 17 of 23 (74%) lab colonies and 9 of 14 (64%) field colonies displayed deformed wings (DWs), ranging from a single crumpled wing tip to twisted, shriveled wings. Numerous symptomatic alates also exhibited altered locomotion ranging from an altered gait to the inability to walk. Deformed wings may prevent S. invicta alates from reproducing since mating only occurs during a nuptial flight. The results from conventional RT-PCR and Sanger sequencing confirmed the presence of DWV-A, and viral replication of DWV was confirmed using a modified strand-specific RT-PCR. Our results suggest that S. invicta can potentially be an alternative and reservoir host for DWV. However, further research is needed to determine whether DWV is the infectious agent that causes the DW syndrome in S. invicta.