Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

PLOS Pathogens






e1011061 (1-18)


Varroa destructor is a cosmopolitan pest and leading cause of colony loss of the European honey bee. Historically described as a competent vector of honey bee viruses, this arthropod vector is the cause of a global pandemic of Deformed wing virus, now endemic in honeybee populations in all Varroa-infested regions. Our work shows that viral spread is driven by Varroa actively switching from one adult bee to another as they feed. Assays using fluorescent microspheres were used to indicate the movement of fluids in both directions between host and vector when Varroa feed. Therefore, Varroa could be in either an infectious or naïve state dependent upon the disease status of their host. We tested this and confirmed that the relative risk of a Varroa feeding depended on their previous host’s infectiousness. Varroa exhibit remarkable heterogeneity in their host-switching behavior, with some Varroa infrequently switching while others switch at least daily. As a result, relatively few of the most active Varroa parasitize the majority of bees. This multiple-feeding behavior has analogs in vectorial capacity models of other systems, where promiscuous feeding by individual vectors is a leading driver of vectorial capacity. We propose that the honeybee-Varroa relationship offers a unique opportunity to apply principles of vectorial capacity to a social organism, as virus transmission is both vectored and occurs through multiple host-to-host routes common to a crowded society.


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 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication.

Data Availability

Article states: "All relevant data are within the manuscript and its Supporting Information files."

Supporting Information files are attached below and also available online at:

Original Publication Citation

Lamas, Z. S., Solmaz, S., Ryabov, E. V., Mowery, J., Heerman, M., Sonenshine, D., Evans, J. D., & Hawthorne, D. J. (2023). Promiscuous feeding across multiple honey bee hosts amplifies the vectorial capacity of Varroa destructor. PLoS Pathogens, 19(1), 1-18, Article e1011061.


0000-0001-9370-918X (Sonenshine)