Upgrading knowledge of pathogens (particularly viruses) of Australian honeybees


  • Project code: PRJ-008540

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Saturday, June 1, 2013

  • Project completion date: Monday, August 31, 2015

  • National Priority: HBE-Improve understanding of nutrition best practice and disease interaction


This study aims to upgrade knowledge on honeybee pathogens in Australia. There are concerns that gaps exist in our current knowledge, as molecular techniques have become standard practice and the last major survey was completed in 1987 and limited to viruses in Eastern Australia, using relatively insensitive serological methods. In 2010, the US suspended trade of Australian queen and packaged bees over concerns of novel pathogens introduced by Apis cerana and the unknown presence of slow paralysis virus. While pathogens of Apis cerana are currently being assessed, a national survey of viruses using molecular techniques is still needed.

In addition, to prepare for the arrival of Varroa it is important Australia knows the prevalence of viruses that cause mortality in association with the mite, such as deformed wing virus. Surveys for certain non-viral pathogens considered not present in particular States (e.g. European foulbrood and Nosema ceranae) also need to be ongoing and will be included in this survey.

Over 2 years, Dr John Roberts will collect samples from all Australian states, covering twelve regions representing key areas for the honeybee industry. Across these regions at least 150 apiaries will be sampled. Brood will be inspected for signs of disease and samples of diseased brood and adult bees screened by molecular techniques to detect non-viral pathogens and viruses. Deep sequencing will be incorporated to support the presence/absence of viruses. Biosecurity Australia has shown support for this approach and is assessing support from the US.


Honey Bee

Research Organisation


Objective Summary

1. Collect adults and diseased brood of European honeybees (Apis mellifera) from all Australian states

2. Determine the presence and distribution of viruses (and strains of viruses) in Australia using molecular techniques, with particular emphasis on slow paralysis virus and deformed wing virus.

3. Determine the presence of non-viral pathogens (particularly European foulbrood and Nosema ceranae) considered not present in certain Australian states using molecular techniques.