Nationwide Screening for Bee Viruses in Apis mellifera Colonies in Egypt

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Honey bees are essential for crop and wild plant pollination. However, many countries have reported high annual colony losses caused by multiple possible stressors. Diseases, particularly those caused by viruses, are a major cause of colony losses. However, little is known about the prevalence of honey bee pathogens, particularly virus prevalence, in Egyptian honey bees. To address this shortfall, we determined the prevalence of widespread bee viruses in honey bee colonies in Egypt—whether it is affected by geography, the season, or infestation with Varroa destructor (varroa) mites. Honey bee worker samples were collected from 18 geographical regions across Egypt during two seasons: winter and summer of 2021. Three apiaries were chosen in each region, and a pooled sample of 150 worker bees was collected from five colonies in each apiary then screened by qPCR for 10 viral targets: acute bee paralysis virus (ABPV), black queen cell virus (BQCV), chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV), deformed wing virus (DWV) genotypes A (DWV-A), B (DWV-B) and D (Egyptian bee virus), Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), Kashmir bee virus (KBV), sacbrood virus (SBV), and slow bee paralysis virus (SBPV). Our results revealed that DWV-A was the most prevalent virus, followed by BQCV and ABPV; the DWV genotype now spreading across the world, DWV-B, was not detected. There was no difference in varroa infestation rates as well as virus prevalence between winter and summer. However, colonies infected with BQCV had a significantly higher varroa count (adjusted p < 0.05) in the winter season, indicating that there is a seasonal association between the intensity of infestation by varroa and the presence of this virus. We provide data on the current virus prevalence in Egypt, which could assist in the protection of Egypt’s beekeeping industry. Moreover, our study aids in the systematic assessment of the global honey bee virome by filling a knowledge gap about the prevalence of honey bee viruses in Egypt.