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Chronic Bee Paralysis

A mystery disease that baffles researchers is being more commonly reported. It has eluded a treatment, but a British beefarmer has tried an ingenious method that seems to give some measure of control.

Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus (CBPV) causes honey bees to have symptoms that include trembling of wings and body, jumpiness, loss of flight, loss of hair, and rejection by healthy members of the colony. It can contribute to the death of a colony. Apparently, the virus has also been found in two species of ants and even varroa.

Chris Neel, in the UK Bee Farmer journal (April 2016), found CBPV in four of his colonies in 2012. Two were too far gone to recover and he followed the then conventional advice to requeen the other two colonies which then recovered.

Two years later in a different apiary 40 km away, CBPV showed up again. Research by then had indicated that bee-to-bee contact transmitted the disease, so Neel hatched a cunning plan.

He caged the queen and separated her from the colony. He then moved the brood box 50 metres away and took out the frames, but returned the beeless box to the original stand after scorching the inside to sterilise it. He then shook every last bee from the frames (50 metres away) and the bees that could fly returned to the original brood box site. He was careful not to let the bees mingle on the ground which might have aided further bee-to-bee transmission.

So, the healthy flying bees returned to the original spot and the queen re-introduced. The CBPV bees, incapable of flight, did not return to the colony. He cl;eared up the dead and dying bees in the vicinity so that further reinfection could be minimised.

The colonies survived and went on to produce a good harvest.

More details of Neel’s method can be read in the April 2016 Bee Farmer magazine

The UK National Bee Unit has video of bees with CBPV.



  • Chris Neel

    yes some nurse bees will be lost but also some will make their way back with the other healthy bees returning to the hive, there are not thousands of bees on the ground after completing our method, don`t forget all the combs are placed back into the hive so there will be emerging bees straight away, and this method is undertaken as a last resort to save an otherwise domed colony, in other words sacrificing a few to save the majority.

  • questy

    But he also lost/killed all the healthy young bees that had not yet flown from hive, and could not orient back to the original hive location. This would lead to a gap in bee population as the older bees died, and the young one were missing.

    • Stephen Fleming

      Indeed, but in the face of a currently untreatable virus, It’s an approach worth considering.

  • amandasurbey

    Is this the “zombie bee” thing where the bees host a bug of sorts? Or an actual virus?

    • Stephen Fleming

      It’s a virus unconnected to “zombie bees”.

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