Black Queen Cell Virus & A High School Flashback

Queen Charlotte Mecklenberg-Sterlitz

The past two weeks have been full days spent preparing bee health reports for the National Honey Bee Survey. In each sample, testing is conducted for Varroa mites, Nosema, exotic bee species and parasites, and also for 6 major viruses:  Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV), Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus (CBPV), Slow Bee Paralysis Virus (SBPV), Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), and Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV).  ABPV, CBPV are very rare in the United States and SBPV is not known to be in the country at this time. IAPV is present, though uncommon. On the other hand, DWV and BQCV are very common in honey bees across the United States.

While I was familiar with DWV, I had never heard of BQCV, as it is not something we have previously tested for in the National Honey Bee survey.  When I first saw BQCV on the report, I had a panicked flashback to my high school European History course and Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George the III. Now, I know the virus has nothing to do with England’s past queens or humans for that matter but my mind wandered there, not to mention also to the black plague.  High school, England, and European history class aside, the Black Queen Cell Virus is relatively common and affects only honey bee colonies.

Hence the name ‘Black Queen Cell,” the virus only attacks developing queen cells. In extremely rare events it has attacked worker cells, but this is highly unlikely.  Once capped, the queen larvae turn black, along with the cell walls, and begin to die inside the cells. Like most honey bee viruses there is currently no specific treatment for BQCV, but it is commonly seen in honey bees that are infected with Nosema and likewise Varroa mites. It is recommended that treatment for Varroa and Nosema will help decrease BQCV in colonies. Additionally, good sanitation practices, comb replacement and re-queening will also aide in the virus reduction. It is my hope along with many beekeepers and researchers conducting virus testing, that one day a safe, harmless treatment for hard to control viruses such as this one will be developed.

But as for now, I will continue to work on reports and put the trauma of high school European history class behind me as it has absolutely no relation with Black Queen Virus and thank goodness!!

Imagine these cells cells black with disease…

Written By: Jennie Stitzinger

Jennie Stitzinger has written 55 post in this blog.

In the summer of 2010 I walked in to the Penn State Agricultural Sciences building to inquire about a job a friend had mentioned to me. I was a poor college student, I needed to pay my summer rent, I was offered the job and I took it—I had no idea what I was in for. Fast forward a little over a year and I was kneeling on rocks and mud, in the cold, northern California rain, surrounded by dairy cows and hundreds of hives while Africanized bees were pinging off my bee suit. With a degree in Community Development from Penn State University, I never thought in a million years I would be working with honey bees upon graduation, but I guess life sure has its surprises. Now a member of the University of Maryland Diagnostic team, I work on many different aspects of BIP and the National Honey Bee Survey. Whether it is field work, traveling, report writing, crunch time projects, or larger missions, I am most likely working on it. What is my favorite part of the job? Working on an awesome project that has impact and is helping beekeepers around the country, learning more about honey bees than I ever thought I wanted to know, and giving me experiences I never thought possible.

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  • Frances

    Is this correct: “the Black Queen Cell Virus is relatively common”. If so, please explain where it is common; I’m in the Southeast US and never heard of it, but I’m a beginner. Thanks.

  • Queen Farran

    I am in healthcare… Bees (insects in general) are among the most resillient and animals in thier kingdom. Their ability to reproduce and the world as their silver platter, no wonder they have had it so well…. until now. Another species is threatening their survival. It is not a parasite, bacteria or virus… but an animal that creates immune-weakening poisons… YEPP… Homo sapians. Just like humans have so many chronic illnesses… cancers, etc. A large portion of our diseases are due from nutritional deficits and chemicals we ingest and use on a daily basis… the bees around us are being so affected by similar factors to a [human] fault. I am not a “tree-hugger” just an observant person who has realized the harm my consumerism has cost my environment, and myself. Time for us to turn over a new leaf!

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