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The ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructoris one of the most destructive pests of the honey bee (Apis mellifera) and the primary biotic cause of colony collapse in many regions of the world. These mites inflict physical injury on their honey bee hosts from feeding on host hemolymph and fat body cells/cellular components, and serve as the vector for deadly honey bee viruses, including Deformed wing virus (DWV) and the related Varroa destructor virus-1 (VDV-1) (i.e., DWV-like viruses). Studies focused on elucidating the dynamics of Varroa-mediated vectoring and transmission of DWV-like viruses may be confounded by viruses present in ingested host tissues or the mites themselves. Here we describe a system that includes an artificial diet free of insect tissue-derived components for maintaining Varroa mites for in vitro experimentation. Using this system, together with the novel engineered cDNA clone-derived genetically tagged VDV-1 and wild-type DWV, we demonstrated for the first time that Varroa mites provided an artificial diet supplemented with engineered viruses for 36 hours could acquire and transmit sufficient numbers of virus particles to establish an infection in virus-naïve hosts. While the in vitro system described herein provides for only up to five days of mite survival, precluding study of the long-term impacts of viruses on mite health, the system allows for extensive insights into the dynamics of Varroa-mediated vectoring and transmission of honey bee viruses.


This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

Data Availability

Article states: "Sequence data for the infectious VDV-1 cDNA clone are available at NCBI GenBank Database (accession MN249174)."

Original Publication Citation

Posada-Florez, F., Ryabov, E. V., Heerman, M. C., Chen, Y., Evans, J. D., Sonenshine, D. E., & Cook, S. C. (2020). Varroa destructor mites vector and transmit pathogenic honey bee viruses acquired from an artificial diet. PLoS One, 15(11), 1-13, Article e0242688.