Free Access
Volume 40, Number 4, July-August 2009
Page(s) 419 - 428
Published online 21 November 2008
Apidologie 40 (2009) 419-428
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2008051

Small hive beetle, Aethina tumida, as a potential biological vector of honeybee viruses

Michael Eyer1, Yan Ping Chen2, Marc Oliver Schäfer1, 3, Jeff Pettis2 and Peter Neumann1, 4, 5

1  Swiss Bee Research Centre, Agroscope Liebefeld-Posieux Research Station ALP, 3003 Bern, Switzerland
2  USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA
3  Chemisches und Veterinäruntersuchungsamt Freiburg (CVUA), Fachgebiet Bienen, Am Moosweiher 2, 79108 Freiburg, Germany
4  Eastern Bee Research Institute of Yunnan Agricultural University, Kunming, China
5  Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa

Received 17 June 2008 – Revised 14 August 2008 – Accepted 25 August 2008 - Published online 8 August 2009

Abstract - The small hive beetle (SHB, Aethina tumida) is a parasite and scavenger of honeybee colonies. Here, we conducted laboratory experiments to investigate the potential of SHB as a vector of honeybee viruses. Using RT-PCR methods, Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) was detected in adult SHBs that: (1) were fed with dead workers with deformed wings, (2) were fed with DWV-positive brood, and (3) were associated with DWV-contaminated wax. SHB became significantly more often infected through feeding on virus infected workers, brood and the virus contaminated wax compared to pollen and the controls, where no infections were found. DWV was also detected in adult SHB after trophallaxis with infected workers. Further, among SHBs identified as DWV-positive, 40% of beetles carried negative stranded RNA of DWV, indicating virus replication. Our results suggest that SHB can be infected with honeybee viruses via food-borne transmission and have the potential of being a biological vector of honeybee viruses.

Key words: Apis mellifera / Aethina tumida / biological vector  / deformed wing virus  / honeybees  / small hive beetle

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2009