Ameliorative Effects of Phytochemical Ingestion on Viral Infection in Honey Bees

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Honey bee viruses are capable of causing a wide variety of devastating effects, but effective treatments have yet to be discovered. Phytochemicals represent a broad range of substances that honey bees frequently encounter and consume, many of which have been shown to improve honey bee health. However, their effect on bee viruses is largely unknown. Here, we tested the therapeutic effectiveness of carvacrol, thymol, p-coumaric acid, quercetin, and caffeine on viral infection by measuring their ability to improve survivorship in honey bees inoculated with Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV) using high-throughput cage bioassays. Among these candidates, caffeine was the only phytochemical capable of significantly improving survivorship, with initial screening showing that naturally occurring concentrations of caffeine (25 ppm) were sufficient to produce an ameliorative effect on IAPV infection. Consequently, we measured the scope of caffeine effectiveness in bees inoculated and uninoculated with IAPV by performing the same type of high-throughput bioassay across a wider range of caffeine concentrations. Our results indicate that caffeine may provide benefits that scale with concentration, though the exact mechanism by which caffeine ingestion improves survivorship remains uncertain. Caffeine therefore has the potential to act as an accessible and inexpensive method of treating viral infections, while also serving as a tool to further understanding of honey bee–virus interactions at a physiological and molecular level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number698
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 13 2020


  • Apis mellifera
  • Caffeine
  • Honey bee
  • Israeli acute paralysis virus
  • Phytochemical
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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