Anybody Know About Black Queen Cell Virus?

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Sometimes ignorance is bliss but this time a study has shown that I have a moderate BQCV infection in my bee yard. I don't know much about it and a quick internet search hasn't really helped. The recommendations are to swap out old frames, re-queen if needed and keep everything clean between hives. A heavy mite load will make the symptoms worst. Any information and suggestions would be appreciated.

Ben Framed:
Beeboy, until now I hadn't heard of it. I did find the following...

What is Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV) and how do I treat it?
by Flow Hive August 20, 2020

Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV) is a devastating disease primarily affecting queen pupae and larvae. Caused by Cripavirus, the disease causes death in queen bee pupae and larvae with affected brood turning yellow to brown/black.

BQCV was first identified in dead queen pupae and larvae. Research studies have shown this disease to be one of the most common causes of queen larvae death throughout Australia and likely, in many other areas throughout the world. Studies also show that the disease may be linked to another parasitic infestation, Nosema apis. This disease is introduced to the colony through the gut of adult honeybees returning to the hive.

Symptoms of BQCV presence include:

The virus process first kills queen larvae (or pupae) and turns it a distinctive yellow colour. From there, the colour slowly fades into a dark brown or black.

In most cases, a sac-like formation appears on the affected larvae. Beekeepers can distinguish BQCV from Sacbrood (another infection) by the distinctive colouring already mentioned.

How it spreads
Most research indicates the disease is spread when nurse bees inadvertently feed the brood infected food. The virus itself remains in dead larvae, pollen and honey for up to four weeks which can lead to continued spread. Additionally, the related virus Nosema apis carried by worker bees may also introduce BQCV into the hive.

Some research suggests that honeybees drifting between hives may transmit the disease across multiple colonies. Water and related beekeeping equipment may also carry the virus and cause transmission between hives

Beekeepers who suspect BQCV should immediately cease any breeding and sales/distribution of potentially infected queen brood. Additionally, they should isolate additional larvae and pupae and monitor them to see if they also become symptomatic. This is the first step toward removing continual infection risk from other pupae or larvae.

Once BQCV has infiltrated a hive, no medication or vaccination can eliminate the virus. Beekeepers should immediately sanitise all grafting tools and related beekeeping equipment. Additionally, standing water sources and containers should also be fully cleaned and sanitised as the virus can be spread through the water as well.

Beyond prevention and isolation methods, a few more strategies may be used to prevent full colony devastation. Anecdotal evidence from multiple beekeepers suggests that the use of antibiotics such as fumagillin or oxytetracycline hydrochloride may help reduce or eliminate the presence of BQCV in the hive. We don?t recommend this and suggest this method should only be used if other control/ elimination strategies are ineffective.

Prevention of BQCV often comes down to appropriate hive hygiene and care-taking procedures. Beekeepers should adopt all the following strategies to help prevent introduction of this disease into their hives.

Breeding a strong hive first comes through proper nutrition. A weak hive invites BQCV and other infectious diseases and parasites into a colony. By keeping the bees well-fed and maintained, they will carry a stronger resistance to BQCV and other viruses.

Continued rotation of combs should be a standard operating procedure for proper hive maintenance and care. Rotation encourages healthy and robust bee activity. Additionally, it allows beekeepers direct opportunities to monitor the hives, bees and comb (and identify issues such as BQCV).

BQCV tends to present during the cooler seasons ? particularly the fall, winter and spring. Beekeepers should place hives in areas that receive more sunlight during these colder months. The warmth acts as a preventative measure to the spread of BQCV.

Like most other diseases and infestations, proper hive/colony maintenance and hygiene can serve as a strong preventative measure against BQCV. Follow strict protocols for equipment hygiene, ongoing hive monitoring and related activities. All it takes is one small watering or use of an infected piece of equipment to introduce BQCV into a colony.

Finally, preventing the ongoing spread of BQCV comes down to beekeeper awareness and identification. If the virus is detected or suspected in a queen breeding hive, beekeepers should cease any sale or distribution of queen pupae and larvae. Additionally, they should also contact their nearest department of agriculture for lab tests to confirm the presence of BQCV.

Responsible apiary management will help prevent BQCV from continuing its spread throughout the world. That is why ongoing awareness and preventative hive maintenance is so critical for disease prevention.

Detecting BQCV in your colony
In many cases, BQCV is identified through the signature colour changes of dead queen pupae and larvae. The dead queen first turns yellow and quickly changes into a dark brown or black colour. Additionally, the skin of the pupae itself becomes sac-like in its appearance. It?s important for beekeepers to distinguish between BQCV and the similar Sacbrood virus as the sac-like appearance of pupae is similar in both diseases. However, Sacbrood typically affects worker bee larvae whereas BQCV impacts queen bee pupae.

Beyond visual identification of dead pupae and larvae, immunodiffusion testing is the most commonly used method to confirm the disease presence.

Laboratories use immunodiffusion to detect specific antisera within pupae cells specific to this infection. While this method is not always foolproof, it can add more specificity to disease identification when multiple colony symptoms are present.



Ben Framed:
Here is another good article by Science Direct

Thanks Ben for the links, since I'm not raising queens I'm more concerned about hive mortality with BQCV. Changing out old comb was already a priority this year and I'm about half way through switching over to plastic foundation. Sounds like hive mortality would be caused by a queen cell loss after a swarm or queen failure so I will keep an eye on the queen health in my hives. Varroa is a know vector so keep mites under control is another priority. Almost sounds like there's not much that can be done except swapping out old comb, re-queening and mite control.

I raise queens.  BQCV does occur, tho very very rarely. Or at least what looks like and I tag as BQCV.  I have never had a sample analyzed for it.  It is quite easy to eliminate.
- candlelight each cell to verify queen inside before placing in mating nuc, trash any that are not on par. Do not leave for bees to tear down.
- remove and trash any cells that are more than 3 days overdue.
- do not leave dud cups for bees to cleanup nor leave them out where they can get to them. Trash em.
- only use healthy - thoroughly treated - hives for starter/finisher cell builders. That means apply mite controls, and antibiotic controls well ahead of when starting cells.
If your method is walk away splits, then yeah .. your whole entire operation and every piece of equipment is subject to the hygiene guidelines in the article quoted.  Much overkill imho.  Control it at the cell builder level and the BQCV will very rarely if ever exist in your operation. 


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