Heritability estimates of the novel trait ‘suppressed in ovo virus infection’ in honey bees (Apis mellifera)

Dirk C. de Graaf*, Dries Laget, Lina De Smet, David Claeys Boúúaert, Marleen Brunain, Roel F. Veerkamp, Evert W. Brascamp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Honey bees are under pressure due to abnormal high colony death rates, especially during the winter. The infestation by the Varroa destructor mite and the viruses that this ectoparasite transmits are generally considered as the bees’ most important biological threats. Almost all efforts to remedy this dual infection have so far focused on the control of the Varroa mite alone and not on the viruses it transmits. In the present study, the sanitary control of breeding queens was conducted on eggs taken from drone brood for 4 consecutive years (2015–2018). The screening was performed on the sideline of an ongoing breeding program, which allowed us to estimate the heritabilities of the virus status of the eggs. We used the term ‘suppressed in ovo virus infection’ (SOV) for this novel trait and found moderate heritabilities for the presence of several viruses simultaneously and for the presence of single viral species. Colonies that expressed the SOV trait seemed to be more resilient to virus infections as a whole with fewer and less severe Deformed wing virus infections in most developmental stages, especially in the male caste. The implementation of this novel trait into breeding programs is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14310
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

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