All together now: geographically coordinated miticide treatment benefits honey bee health.

Published online
09 Nov 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Woodford, L. & Sharpe, G. & Highet, F. & Evans, D. J.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
Scotland & UK


Deformed wing virus (DWV) is a pathogenic virus of honey bees transmitted by the ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor. Annual overwintering colony losses, accounting for ~25% of all colonies, are associated with high levels of Varroa-DWV infestation. Effective miticide treatments are available to control Varroa. However, the absence of coordinated treatment means environmental transmission of mites continues unchecked. We aimed to determine whether rational, coordinated treatment is beneficial, and characterized the DWV population as an indicator of colony health. This study uses coordinated treatment of Varroa in a geographically isolated environment (Isle of Arran, Scotland) over 3 years. The study area contained 50-84 colonies managed by ~20 amateur beekeepers. Sampling and virus analysis to assess strain diversity and viral loads were conducted before and after treatments, and changes in population diversity were quantified by sequence analysis. Over the 3 years analysis of the virus population revealed that the dominant DWV variant shifted from Type A to Type B in all apiaries, regardless of mite levels or proximity to other colonies. During this period the number of managed colonies increased by 47% (57-84 colonies), but despite this, we estimate total mite numbers decreased by 58%. Synthesis and applications. In this study, the beekeepers in Arran significantly improved the number of colonies they managed, without importing any bees onto the island, indicating that an improved focus on management techniques, through the combination of a coordinated miticide programme and an improved understanding of bee diseases, could yield positive results for bee health and sustainability.

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