A preliminary survey reveals that common viruses are found at low titers in a wild population of honey bees (Apis mellifera). Academic Article uri icon


  • A major threat to honey bee (Apis mellifera Linnaeus, Hymenoptera: Apidae) health continues to be parasitism by the mite Varroa destructor, which has been linked to high colony losses worldwide. Besides feeding on developing and adult bees, Varroa is also a prolific vector of honey bee-associated viruses. Because they live in unmanaged conditions, wild honey bee colonies are not treated against Varroa, which has enabled the natural selection of more mite-tolerant bees. To date, few studies have explored the prevalence of viruses in unmanaged colonies. The Welder Wildlife Refuge (WWR) in Texas is a unique site to study the viral landscape of unmanaged honey bees in the United States. The goals of this study were to identify and quantify viruses in wild colonies at the WWR, to examine changes in the prevalence of viruses in these colonies over time, and to compare the presence and titers of viruses between wild colonies at the WWR and those from the nearest managed apiary. We collected bees from colonies at the WWR in 2013, 2016, and 2021, and analyzed selected viruses for their presence and titers via quantitative polymerase chain reaction. In 2021, we also sampled bees from the nearest managed apiary for comparison. We found low average virus titers in all wild colonies sampled, and no difference in virus titers between colonies at the WWR and those from the managed apiary. Our study indicates that virus titers in wild colonies at the WWR are similar to those found in nearby colonies, and that these titers fluctuate over time.

published proceedings

  • J Insect Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • Dickey, M., Whilden, M., Ellis, J. T., & Rangel, J.

complete list of authors

  • Dickey, Myra||Whilden, Mckaela||Ellis, Jordan Twombly||Rangel, Juliana

editor list (cited editors)

  • Foster, L.

publication date

  • November 2023