What is the Kashmir Bee Virus (KBV)?

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Quick Overview

The Kashmir Bee Virus (KBV) is a virulent pathogen affecting honeybees globally, often remaining dormant without symptoms until activated by stressors like Varroa mites. KBV spreads rapidly due to the social nature of bees, sharing food, and close contact. Unlike other viruses, KBV doesn’t cause infection when ingested by developing bees but becomes lethal when transmitted by Varroa mites, affecting all life stages of bees without apparent symptoms.

Diagnosis of KBV involves molecular testing, as it’s genetically and serologically close to the Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV). Control measures include regular colony inspections, minimizing colony transmission, and integrated management of stressors. There’s no specific treatment for KBV, but maintaining strong colony health through proper nutrition and Varroa mite management is crucial.

The Kashmir Bee Virus

The Kashmir Bee Virus (KBV) is one of the diseases that affect honeybees. Just like any other virus and pathogen, it spreads swiftly in honeybee colonies. This is attributable to the fact that honeybees are social insects and thus viruses will spread due to close contact among the honeybee, sharing food and clustering during periods of confinement.

The Kashmir Bee Virus is common globally and is regarded as one of the most virulent among all viruses that affect honeybees. One of the things that makes it so different from other viruses, is the fact that it does not cause infection when developing honeybee ingests it. It also persists in its dormant state in adult and developing bees, and will never show any clear symptoms. Nevertheless, the virus becomes fatal when transmitted by Varroa mites, and will affect all forms of the honeybee life cycle. And it displays no apparent symptoms. The virus can kill colonies even when there is a moderate level of mite infestation, just like with the Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV).

Honeybee Immune System

Honeybees instinctively reduce disease risk through a combination of behavior, that is, social immunity, or individual immune function. The effectiveness of honeybee social and individual immunities has a direct effect on the overall health or state of the colony.

The parasitic mite referred to as Varroa compromises the health of the honeybee colony. The parasites suppress nutrient levels, cripple individual immunity, and spread viruses. A lot of future research will be geared toward a better understanding of the dynamics of nutrition immunity relationship with respect to the level of stress, seasons time of the year, or colony demographics.

Colonies of honeybees and other social insects rely on group behaviors and individual immunity for survival. These help counter viruses and diseases that pose a serious risk to their well-being. It helps the insects respond to pathogens and parasites.

Social Immunity

Social immunity simply refers to the collective defense employed by honeybees and other social insects against parasites and pathogens through their collective effort. What this means is that each individual does a small task that contributes to the overall well-being of the colony. This helps reduce the spread of these parasites and pathogens.

Worker bees play the role of removing dead adult bees and diseased or parasitized bees from the colony. Adults with high pathogen loads die outside the beehive thus helping secure the entire colony from further infection.

Thermoregulatory behavior is also used by honeybees to keep the colony safe. This helps counter pathogens that are sensitive to heat. For instance, chalkbrood fungus (Ascosphaera apis).

Apart from group behavior; honeybees also collect propolis or plant resin. This is used to make a water and airtight environment that helps keep out viruses and fungus. The compounds in propolis help boost the immunity of the bees. The other ingredients contained in propolis inhibit Varroa mite populations through their miticidal properties.

Individual Immunity

Honeybees also rely on individual immunity when it comes to defense against pathogens and diseases. Their first line of defense is the exoskeleton cuticle which acts as a physical and chemical barrier to pathogens. The membrane lining the digestive tract is also a first line of defense for honeybees. These prevent pathogens from entering the body or sticking to the body surface. The cellular and immune response acts as a second line of defense in case the pathogens manage to get past the first line of defense.

The honeybee’s innate immune response involves recognition of the structural patterns on the surface of pathogens. This is attained through the action of the Pattern Recognition Receptors (PRRs).  These are encoded proteins that function as agents of defense against microbial infections in bees, just like the blood cells in humans. They are broadly referred to as antimicrobial peptides (AMP). These include abaecin, defencin, hymenoptaecin, and apidaecin.

Some of the pathways that have been experimentally identified to control the action of AMP genes in response to a virus infection include Toll, JNK, Imd, and Jak-STAT. Other studies noted that honeybees that have been infected with the Acute Bee Paralysis Virus do not activate cellular immune or humoral responses. Similar studies carried out recently, showed various ranges of trigger pathways in the cellular innate immune response when honeybees are infected with the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IBPV).

Kashmir Bee Virus Diagnosis

The Kashmir Bee Virus is closely related to the Acute Bee Paralysis Virus when analyzed genetically and serologically. The two viruses were pointed out to be key contaminants during the study of the Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus (CBPV) transmission. It is believed that both viruses must have originated from the same ancestor and taken different evolution paths in secluded geographic regions. The viruses can co-infect the same honeybee colony and affect the same bee, making the situation much worse.

Both KBV and ABPV might be closely related but the two can be readily differentiated through laboratory testing. The complex tests undertaken show the VP4 proteins of the two viruses to be serologically different. There exist significant differences between the two viruses when the genome is evaluated. This is a key area containing the primary and secondary RNA structures that help the experts distinguish the virus.

Molecular testing and evaluation are key strategies that help during the diagnosis of the Kashmir Bee Virus in honeybee colonies, Apis mellifera. Some complex procedures that involved serology, that is, chemiluminescent Western blotting, and or nucleic acid amplification, that is RT-PCR or reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, prove to be effective. Alternatively, it is possible to detect viral infection, in some situations through Coomassie blue staining of SDS-PAGE gels.

With laboratory conditions, the Kashmir bee virus can easily be differentiated from the acute paralysis virus. The various tests undertaken target the viral RNA composition. This involves using the monospecific antisera raised versus putative picornavirus such as VP4 polypeptide.

The laboratory tests require a tiny amount of material from the Western honeybee. Therefore, the examination of a single bee is sufficient for ascertaining the presence of a number of pathogens or viruses.

The Kashmir Bee Virus can be transmitted through multiple routes in honeybee colonies. Any traces of KBV detected in brood food, royal jelly, feces, honey, or pollen will mean the virus was transmitted orally through infected food sources in the honeybee colony. More so, any of the virus traces detected in Varroa mites or their salivary secretions, imply the parasite can be an agent or transmitter of KBV. Nonetheless, further studies are yet to confirm the effective role played by varroa mites when it comes to the transmission of the virus whether physical or biological. The mites play a big role when it comes to transmitting viruses in honeybees. As a matter of fact, beekeepers are advised to control Varroa mites as a measure of countering most of the viruses that grapple beekeeping.

Symptoms of the Kashmir Bee Virus

The Kashmir Bee Virus can be identified through a number of signs and symptoms.

First category:

  • Trembling of adult bee wings and bodies. The bees are unable to fly and can be seen crawling on the ground or on plant stems.
  • Sick and weak bees cluster together.
  • Bees with a bloated abdomen, leading to dysentery. They will die within a very short time after displaying symptoms.

Second category:

  • Greasy adult bees that are hairless and can fly but within a few days, can no longer fly. They begin to tremble and soon die.

Some or all of these signs may be seen within the same honeybee colony. Colonies that are severely affected, especially the strongest quickly begin to lose adult workers. Eventually, this leads to a colony collapse. Initially, signs may not show and later begin to manifest when it is too late. Thus, regular monitoring of the honeybee colonies can never be emphasized enough. Beekeepers should be on the lookout for any sign that appears out of the norm. The overall behavior of the colony can act as a guide.


Kashmir Bee Viruses normally target the digestive system and will get into the system through oral ingestion of food. The virus infects the epithelial cells located within the midgut. These cells are continuously replaced and are normally secured by membranes and filters that keep off the pathogens from gut tissues. Nosema apis and Nosema cerana are the parasites that infect the gut area, creating lesions in the epithelium. This allows harmful viruses such as Kashmir to penetrate the hemolymph and destroy some other cells in the honeybee body.

Interestingly, an external parasite such as Varroa destructor directly feeds on bee hemolymph. It inflicts openings on the bee cuticle that pave the way for viruses to enter. Remember, most virus infections will never result in an infection if ingested orally. However, it takes a few virus particles to cause an infection if directly injected into the hemolymph. Many viruses that affect honeybees are transmitted by Varroa mites.

Some viruses like sacbrood, have been identified in Varroa mites through lab tests. However, Varroa mites do not transmit the virus directly. Other tests have shown Kashmir bee virus multiplies in Varroa mites.

Control Measures for the Kashmir Bee Virus

Inspecting beehive frame for the Kashmir Bee Virus

Kashmir Bee Viruses can persist in normal and healthy colonies without notice. They later explode in times of stress. Most of the honeybee viruses are damaging when combined with other stressors such as Varroa or Nosema. Therefore, continuous and integrated management of these triggers can help minimize the virus.

Regular inspection of honeybee colonies is encouraged. The beekeeper should be familiar with the signs and symptoms that can help tell whether there is a viral infection or not. Some of these include colonies being slow to build up, and sporadic brood patterns that indicate the brood has been removed. If the disease is suspected, a sample should be taken and a diagnosis done.

The Kashmir Bee Virus does not have a specific treatment. Thus, beekeepers should adopt recommended measures for controlling and minimizing viruses in honeybee colonies. Beekeepers can reduce viral spread and lessen exposure to other triggers like parasites, pesticides, and nutritional deficiencies. Additionally, uncontrolled populations of Varroa mites are the main agents of transmission of viral infections.

1. Nutrition and Immunity

Nectar and pollen are ideally sufficient for sustaining honeybees since they contain the required nutritional requirements. The bees normally collect pollen and nectar in excessive amounts during peak seasons and are stored in preparation for periods of dearth, in the form of beebread and honey.

The main source of energy for all the stages of the honeybee is the honey, ideally rich in carbohydrates. Pollen on the other hand provides protein and other nutrients that are essential for immunity, growth, and brood rearing.

The type of feed taken by the honeybees will affect their immunity and directly affect how the colony will respond to a virus such as the Kashmir Bee Virus and others. The protein contained in pollen is rich in amino acids that help during the production of peptides in immune pathways. Additionally, the carbohydrates sourced from honey help pump energy for metabolic processes that impact cellular immune reactions and innate humoral reactions. It is also a source of secondary plant metabolites that boast antimicrobial properties.

Therefore the first defence against any viral attack is honeybee nutrition. Varro mite infestation can adversely compromise colony response to pathogens. Sufficient nutrition should be availed throughout the various stages of the honeybee since it helps raise a stronger colony that can overcome parasitic and viral invasions. For instance, worker bees that are parasitized during their developmental stages emerge with low protein a level that is impossible to boost even if sufficient pollen is provided. This also applies to the pupae stage of the honeybee. The parasitic-infested pupae end up with lower protein content, low amino acid levels, and significantly lower weight on emergence when compared to healthy pupae.

Therefore sufficient and good quality feed should be provided to the honeybees as the first line of defence against the Kashmir Bee Virus. Once this is done the rest becomes much easier to handle. However, Varroa mite control should be a priority alongside nutritional considerations. Remember, abundant resources during peak seasons also stimulate the Varroa mite population growth as well. Therefore, if not considered your effort might be counterproductive.

The mites have developed mechanisms of survival even during tough times. For instance, the Varroa mite population increases substantially during fall when the brood is at its minimum. The parasites also develop faster inside the drone cells. These cells are chosen since the cells are larger and their post-capping stage takes 15 days which is much longer than that of worker bees (11 days). This therefore means the mites are able to produce more offspring for each cycle.

2. Minimize Colony Transmission

The beekeepers should reduce the spread of the virus between colonies since viral infections are higher when there is a higher number of honeybee colonies.

This can be achieved by:

  • Reducing the number of honeybee colonies in each apiary.
  • Strategic placement of beehives to avoid the drift of infected honeybees. Spacing honeybee colonies farther apart with hives facing different directions.
  • Avoiding the use of frames from infected colonies and other honeybee colonies. Any colony portraying symptoms of a viral infection should be avoided.
  • All hive tools and equipment should be cleaned with alcohol after inspection.
  • Feed honeybees with high-quality feed.


3. Cultural Solutions

Cultural solutions can help keep off the Kashmir Bee Virus and other viruses. The use of Varroa mite-resistant stocks of honeybees will help. Some of the resistant stocks include the Russian honeybee. Other stocks that are Varroa sensitive and ankle-biter or leg-chewer stocks can resist KBV and other viruses. These honeybee stocks have also shown an ability to suppress viral populations.

4. Minimize Pesticides Exposure

Beekeepers should minimize exposing their honeybees to pesticides. First off, they can register with their local authorities so that they are informed when a pesticide spray is about to be carried out within their area. It is also important to meet with local growers within the locality so as to deliberate on ways of minimizing pesticide use.

5. Mechanical Solutions

a. Old Honey Combs Removal

Viruses and other contaminants of the hive build up over time on wax combs, and if not removed it can lead to the spread of viruses and diseases. Therefore, old honeycombs should be rotated regularly or removed completely. As a general guide, replace at least ⅓ of the honey frames in each colony every year. Any old combs that have been removed should be destroyed.

b. Propolis Accumulation

It is usually accumulated on hive entrances and other openings that exist in the beehive. Bees have been using propolis for the longest time and beekeepers have learned about its effectiveness in countering honeybee viruses and diseases. The beekeeper can apply the propolis solution on the interior of beehives. Alternatively, you can encourage honeybees to deposit propolis within the beehive through a number of ways. First off, scrape off the interior part of the wood used to build hives so as to make it rough. This will encourage honeybees to deposit propolis. Secondly, the use of a cotton cloth as an inner cover will encourage the bees to fill it up with propolis.

6. Chemical Solutions

Essentially, there are no specific chemical treatments for the Kashmir Bee Virus, just like many other viruses in honeybee colonies. Fortunately, certain natural chemicals that may not be available commercially, will help curb the spread of the virus. These substances have been identified by researchers since wild bees have been using them for many years. Others have been discovered through trial and error and have proven to work.

They include the following:

a. Thymol treatment

Thymol is a potent ingredient that helps counter most of the viruses that affect honeybee colonies. Apiaries should be treated with 0.16 ppm thymol. This has proven to reduce levels of Kashmir Bee Virus. It also helps counter acute bee paralysis (ABPV). This can be applied on just emerged honeybees then returned to colonies. Unfortunately, thymol treatment may not guarantee consistent results.

b. Propolis solution

Propolis is one of the natural products used by honeybees as a disinfectant. It has been tested and confirmed to boost the immunity of honeybees and inhibit virus spread in honeybee colonies. Propolis solution can be applied to the beehive and the bees as a way of countering the Kashmir Bee Virus and other viruses.

c. Fungal extracts

Fungal extracts from two major species, that is, Ganoderma retinaculum and Fomes fomentarius can help reduce levels of the Kashmir Bee Virus and other viruses in honeybee colonies.


You can prevent colony losses from the Kashmir Bee Virus through proper control and management of Varroa mites. The honeybee is regarded as an essential pollinator for plenty of agricultural crops and other wild plant species globally. Just like any other agricultural-based activity, beekeeping as a venture is important in a lot of countries, not just because it is required for pollination services for fruits and seed production, but also because it provides honeybee products that are exported to other countries.

The Kashmir Bee Virus is not so common or prevalent in Australia or the United States. Nonetheless, in instances where it is endemic, it is rarely reported within Europe, just like most other dicistroviruses. The virus usually remains dormant within healthy colonies until some triggers or stress factors stimulate viral multiplication leading to death of the honeybee colony.

Various studies have pointed out that Kashmir Bee Virus infection will occur at the different developing stages of the honeybees, without any clear or identifiable virus symptoms. The disease has been so common over the last decade. In fact, it is perceived as a potentially lethal virus that has become more important and requires urgent action. It is particularly categorized within the class of viruses that are linked to colony collapse in colonies infested with the Varroa mite destructor.

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About Michael Simmonds

Michael Simmonds is an American beekeeper with more than two decades of experience in beekeeping. His journey with bees began in his youth, sparking a lifelong passion that led him to start his own apiary at the tender age of 15. Throughout the years, Simmonds has refined his beekeeping skills and has accumulated a wealth of knowledge concerning honeybee biology and behavior. Simmonds' early exposure to beekeeping ignited a fascination with these pollinators, influencing his decision to establish BeeKeepClub in 2016. The website was created with the aim to serve as the ultimate resource for beginners interested in beekeeping. Under Simmonds' guidance, BeeKeepClub provides comprehensive information to novices, including the basics of beekeeping, the different types of bees and hives, the selection of hive locations, and the necessary beekeeping equipment. In addition, the site offers detailed reviews of beekeeping tools to help enthusiasts make informed decisions and get the best value for their investment​​. His contributions to the beekeeping community through BeeKeepClub are substantial, offering both educational content and practical advice. The website covers a wide array of topics, from starting an apiary to harvesting honey, all reflecting Simmonds' extensive experience and passion for the field. Simmonds’ approach is hands-on and educational, focusing on the importance of understanding bees and the environment in which they thrive. His work not only guides beginners through their beekeeping journey but also reflects a commitment to the well-being of bees. Michael Simmonds has dedicated a significant part of his life to bees and beekeeping, and through BeeKeepClub, he has made this knowledge accessible to a broader audience. His work undoubtedly embodies a blend of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness in the realm of beekeeping.
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