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!!