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Keywords:

  • Apis mellifera;
  • bee virus;
  • deformed wing virus (DWV);
  • bee larvae;
  • honey bees;
  • RNA interference (RNAi);
  • DWV-dsRNA;
  • deformity

Abstract

Deformed wing virus (DWV) is a serious pathogen of the honey bee, Apis mellifera L., vectored by the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. The virus is associated with wing deformity in symptomatic bees, and premature death and reduced colony performance in asymptomatic bees. In the present study we reduced DWV infection by feeding both first instar larvae and adult A. mellifera with a double-stranded (ds) RNA construct, DWV-dsRNA, which is specific to DWV in DWV-inoculated bees, by mixing it with their food. We showed that feeding DWV to larvae causes wing deformity in adult bees in the absence of varroa mites and decreases survival rates of adult bees relative to bees not fed DWV. Feeding larvae with DWV-dsRNA in advance of inoculation with virus reduced the DWV viral level and reduced wing deformity relative to larvae fed DWV or DWV with green fluorescent protein-dsRNA (probably a result of RNA silencing), but did not affect survival to the adult stage. Feeding DWV-dsRNA did not affect larval survival rates, which suggests that dsRNA is non-toxic to larvae. Feeding adult workers with DWV-dsRNA in advance of inoculation with virus increased their longevity and reduced DWV concentration relative to controls.