Although overall pollinator populations have declined over the last couple of decades, the honey bee (Apis mellifera) malady, colony collapse disorder (CCD), has caused major concern in the agricultural community. Among honey bee pathogens, RNA viruses are emerging as a serious threat and are suspected as major contributors to CCD. Recent detection of these viral species in bumble bees suggests a possible wider environmental spread of these viruses with potential broader impact. It is therefore vital to study the ecology and epidemiology of these viruses in the hymenopteran pollinator community as a whole. We studied the viral distribution in honey bees, in their pollen loads, and in other non-Apis hymenopteran pollinators collected from flowering plants in Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois in the United States. Viruses in the samples were detected using reverse transcriptase-PCR and confirmed by sequencing. For the first time, we report the molecular detection of picorna-like RNA viruses (deformed wing virus, sacbrood virus and black queen cell virus) in pollen pellets collected directly from forager bees. Pollen pellets from several uninfected forager bees were detected with virus, indicating that pollen itself may harbor viruses. The viruses in the pollen and honey stored in the hive were demonstrated to be infective, with the queen becoming infected and laying infected eggs after these virus- ontaminated foods were given to virus-free colonies. These viruses were detected in eleven other non-Apis hymenopteran species, ranging from many solitary bees to bumble bees and wasps. This finding further expands the viral host range and implies a possible deeper impact on the health of our ecosystem. Phylogenetic analyses support that these viruses are disseminating freely among the pollinators via the flower pollen itself. Notably, in cases where honey bee apiaries affected by CCD harbored honey bees with Israeli Acute Paralysis virus (IAPV), nearby non-Apis hymenopteran pollinators also had IAPV, while those near apiaries without IAPV did not. In containment greenhouse experiments, IAPV moved from infected honey bees to bumble bees and from infected bumble bees to honey bees within a week, demonstrating that the viruses could be transmitted from one species to another. This study adds to our present understanding of virus epidemiology and may help explain bee disease patterns and pollinator population decline in general.
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