PhD Studentship: Understanding the factors that influence honey bee susceptibility to the honey bee virus, Deformed Wing Virus (DWV)

You are here:

About the Project

Deformed Wing virus (DWV), a previously benign virus, has become a devastating disease of managed honey bees. DWV is a virulent virus when vectored by the introduced parasitic mite, Varroa destructor. The synergistic action of the mite and DWV can result in high honey bee colony losses. Two predominant strain types of DWV exist: DWV-A & DWV-B but functional data conflict on the differences between strains. Recent evidence shows a shift in the predominant genotype in the UK and the USA during the past 10 years from DWV-A to DWV-B. The cause and implications of this are not understood, due in part to the lack, until recently, of a cell culture system for honey bees. DWV and other honey bee viruses are poorly understood.

This project seeks to characterise DWV and other honey bee viruses using honey bee cell lines complemented by in vivo studies. The aim of this project is to expand our understanding of DWV and its complex interactions with the honey bee host and the mite vector. This project will utilise a range of molecular techniques and cell biology to: understand the differences between strain types of DWV, understand factors influencing host susceptibility to DWV, and to characterise other poorly studied honey bee viruses. The project will involve developing new tools and methods for characterising honey bee viruses.

Candidate profile: We are seeking an individual who is enthusiastic about honey bees, with an undergraduate degree in molecular biology, cell biology or a related topic. The project will include cell culture, molecular virology and beekeeping/handling. Previous experience in these areas is preferred; although training in each will be given, the successful candidate will have previous experience in at least one of these areas, to ensure initial progress. This project will involve working with honey bees so candidates should feel comfortable working with bees during the course of their research.

TO APPLY: Full details of how to apply can be found on our website How to apply | The Pirbright Institute

For informal enquiries regarding this project please contact the project supervisors noted above.

For enquiries regarding eligibility and the application process please email

Closing date: Monday 05th April


This is a fully funded studentship. Eligible students will receive a minimum stipend of £15,609 pa plus a cost of living allowance £2,200 pa. University tuition fees will be paid.


• Goblirsch et al. (2013) A cell line resource derived from honey bee (Apis mellifera) embryonic tissues. PLoS ONE 8. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069831.
• Posada-Florez et al. (2019) Deformed wing virus type A, a major honey bee pathogen, is vectored by the mite Varroa destructor in a non-propagative manner.
Scientific reports 9(1). doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-47447-3.
• Martin et al. (2012) Global honey bee viral landscape altered by a parasitic mite. Science 336.6086. doi: 10.1126/science.1220941.
• Ryabov et al. (2017) Recent spread of Varroa destructor virus-1, a honey bee pathogen, in the United States. Scientific Reports 7(1). doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-17802-3.