Antibodies play a crucial role in virus control. The production of antibodies requires virus-specific B cells to encounter viral antigens in lymph nodes, become activated, interact with different immune cells, proliferate and enter specific differentiation programmes. Each step occurs in distinct lymph node niches, requiring a coordinated migration of B cells between different subcompartments. The development of multiphoton intravital microscopy has enabled researchers to begin to elucidate the precise cellular and molecular events by which lymph nodes coordinate humoral responses. This Review discusses recent studies that clarify how viruses interfere with antibody responses, highlighting how these mechanisms relate to our topological and temporal understanding of B cell activation within secondary lymphoid organs.