Deformed Wing Virus - Honey Bee

Deformed Wing Virus

Deformed wing virus (DWV) is a highly viral disease transmitted by Varroa destructor. The disease is commonly found in colonies infested with mites. Deformed Wing Virus is regarded as deadly due to its ability to spread fast in any colony. It causes massive wing deformation in bees making it difficult for them to live normally. DWV which is regarded as a low-grade infectious disease is commonly triggered by mite infestations. It has a reputation for being massively destructive leading to the decimation of well-established colonies globally. The deformed wing virus is common in late summer and early fall. A high concentration of mites can be overwhelming for any bee colony.

DWV occurs when varroa mites which are external parasites feed on the hemolymph of both developing and mature bees after attacking them. Consequently; it reduces their lifespan drastically while spreading the deadly disease to the rest of the colony members. The Varroa mite can trigger the virus transmission from one infected bee to the entire colony within a very short span of time. Their vectored viruses are notorious at affecting honeybees immune systems hence leaving them exposed to risks of DWV. This wing deformity is a sign of a high viral load on the bees, and ultimately, bees need their wings to survive. Those with deformed wings cannot forage. 

The massive loss of bee colonies across the globe is commonly attributed to Varroa Mites and the viruses they carry – including DWV. These viruses triggers major queen failures in colonies. It is evident that Queen Failure leads to loss of colonies. Additionally, the virus can also be transmitted through severe weather conditions, predation, and foraging bees.

Although DWV diagnosis can only be done through laboratory tests, beekeepers should be on the lookout for obvious signs of DWV. A colony infected with DWV may exhibit the following symptoms;

  • Stunted/rounded abdomens
  • Paralysis of appendages
  • Learning impairment
  • Deformed/atrophied/shortened wings
  • Discoloring
  • Rounded abdomens
  • Wrinkled/twisted/distorted/misshapen wings
  • Unusual shrinking of bee population
  • Rejection of deformed adults by other members of the colony
  • Death of infected bees within 48hours

Even though DWV is incurable, beekeepers can deploy preventative measures such as the elimination of mite infestations, comb replacement, good sanitation, requeening and vigilance.

Deformed Wing Virus - Honey Bee
Honeybee with Deformed Wing Virus | by klaas de gelder


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