Honey bee Apis mellifera parasites in the absence of Nosema ceranae fungi and Varroa destructor mites

Few areas of the world have western honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies that are free of invasive parasites Nosema ceranae (fungi) and Varroa destructor (mites). Particularly detrimental is V. destructor; in addition to feeding on host haemolymph, these mites are important vectors of several viruses that are further implicated as contributors to honey bee mortality around the world. Thus, the biogeography and attendant consequences of viral communities in the absence of V. destructor are of significant interest. The island of Newfoundland, Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, is free of V. destructor; the absence of N. ceranae has not been confirmed. Of 55 Newfoundland colonies inspected visually for their strength and six signs of disease, only K-wing had prevalence above 5% (40/55 colonies = 72.7%). Similar to an earlier study, screenings again confirmed the absence of V. destructor, small hive beetles Aethina tumida (Murray), tracheal mites Acarapis woodi (Rennie), and Tropilaelaps spp. ectoparasitic mites. Of a subset of 23 colonies screened molecularly for viruses, none had Israeli acute paralysis virus, Kashmir bee virus, or sacbrood virus. Sixteen of 23 colonies (70.0%) were positive for black queen cell virus, and 21 (91.3%) had some evidence for deformed wing virus. No N. ceranae was detected in molecular screens of 55 colonies, although it is possible extremely low intensity infections exist; the more familiar N. apis was found in 53 colonies (96.4%). Under these conditions, K-wing was associated (positively) with colony strength; however, viruses and N. apis were not. Furthermore, black queen cell virus was positively and negatively associated with K-wing and deformed wing virus, respectively. Newfoundland honey bee colonies are thus free of several invasive parasites that plague operations in other parts of the world, and they provide a unique research arena to study independent pathology of the parasites that are present.


Shutler D, Head K, Burger-MacLellan KL, Colwell MJ, Levitt AL, Ostiguy N, Williams GR, 2014.  Honey bee Apis mellifera parasites in the absence of Nosema ceranae fungi and Varroa destructor mites.  PLoS One 9:e98599.