The detection of honey bee (Apis mellifera)-associated viruses in ants
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Interspecies virus transmission involving economically important pollinators, including honey bees (Apis mellifera), has recently sparked research interests regarding pollinator health. Given that ants are common pests within apiaries in the southern U.S., the goals of this study were to (1) survey ants found within or near managed honey bee colonies, (2) document what interactions are occurring between ant pests and managed honey bees, and 3) determine if any of six commonly occurring honey bee-associated viruses were present in ants collected from within or far from apiaries. Ants belonging to 14 genera were observed interacting with managed honey bee colonies in multiple ways, most commonly by robbing sugar resources from within hives. We detected at least one virus in 89% of the ant samples collected from apiary sites (n = 57) and in 15% of ant samples collected at non-apiary sites (n = 20). We found that none of these ant samples tested positive for the replication of Deformed wing virus, Black queen cell virus, or Israeli acute paralysis virus, however. Future studies looking at possible virus transmission between ants and bees could determine whether ants can be considered mechanical vectors of honey bee-associated viruses, making them a potential threat to pollinator health.
author list (cited authors)
Payne, A. N., Shepherd, T. F., & Rangel, J.