Varroa-Resistant Honey Bees Are More Than Twice As Likely To Survive the Winter

Honey Bee With Varroa Mite

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Varroa termites are a significant risk to honey bee health and are ending up being resistant to 2 substances (coumaphos and fluvalinate) utilized to manage them. Beekeepers now have an easy assay to identify whether termites are resistant and hence guarantee usage of proper control procedures. Credit: Stephen Ausmus/ ARS-USDA

An USDA Agricultural Research Service- established line of bees that naturally has low levels of Varroa termites is more than two times as most likely to endure the winter season than basic honey bees.

Pol- line honey bees, a kind of Varroa mite resistant honey bee established by the Agricultural Research Service, are more than two times as most likely to endure through the winter season than basic honey bees, according to a research study released in Scientific Reports

Although ARS established Pol- line bees in 2014, this research study was the very first time that they were evaluated head-to-head along with basic honey bee stock in business apiaries offering pollination services and producing honey. Colonies’ capability to endure winter season without being dealt with to manage Varroa termites was followed in 4 states: Mississippi, California, and North and South Dakota.

In this research study, Pol- line nests that were offered no treatment to control Varroa termites in the fall had a survival rate of 62.5 percent compared to basic bees nests in business apiaries likewise offered no fall Varroa treatment, which had a winter season survival rate of 3 percent.

When Pol- line nests and basic nests were dealt with versus Varroa termites in both fall and December, Pol- line bees had a winter season survival rate of 72 percent while basic bees had a survival rate of 56 percent. So Pol- line bees still had a much better winter season survival rate despite getting double Varroa mite treatment.

“These survival results continue to highlight the importance of beekeepers needing to manage Varroa infestations. The ability to have high colony survival with reduced or no Varroa treatments can allow beekeepers to save money and time,” stated research study molecular biologist Michael Simone-Finstrom, co-leader of the research study with research study entomologist Frank Rinkevich, both with the ARS Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research Laboratory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

This research study was the conclusion of reproducing efforts to establish honey bee nests with naturally low Varroa populations that started at the Baton Rouge laboratory in the late 1990 s.

Winter nest survival is important for beekeepers since in February each year, about 2.5 million honey bee nests are required in California to pollinate almond crops. Larger, much healthier nests bring beekeepers exceptional pollination agreements at about $220 a nest.
Varroa termites can trigger huge nest losses; they are the single biggest issue dealing with beekeepers considering that they infect the United States from Southeast Asia in1987 While miticides utilized to manage Varroa exist, resistance is establishing to a few of them.

“We would like to replace reliance on chemical controls with honey bees like Pol-line that have high mite resistance of their own and perform well, including high honey production, in commercial beekeeping operations. Pol-line’s high mite resistance is based on their behavior for removing Varroa by expelling infested pupae—where Varroa mites reproduce–a trait called Varroa-sensitive hygiene (VSH),” stated Rinkevich.

“Beyond Pol-line bees, we need to create advanced and easy breeding selection tools that beekeepers can use to select resistance traits in their own bees to promote VSH behavior in honey bees across the country,” Simone-Finstrom stated. “The great thing about this particular trait is that we’ve learned honey bees of all types express it at some level, so we know with the right tools, it can be promoted and selected in everyone’s bees.”

Evolutionary ecologist Thomas O’Shea-Wheller, now with the University of Exeter in England, who dealt with the research study while a post-doc with Louisiana State University under teacher Kristen Healy mentioned, “This kind of resistance provides a natural and sustainable solution to the threat posed by Varroa mites. It does not rely on chemicals or human intervention.”

In addition, total winter season survival, the researchers analyzed the levels of infections in Pol- line and basic bee nests that are frequently transferred by varroa termites.

The Pol- line nests revealed considerably lower levels of 3 significant infections: Deformed wing infection A, Deformed wing infection B and Chronic bee paralysis infection, all of which can trigger substantial issues for nests.

“Interestingly, when we looked at the levels of virus infection separately from the levels of mite infestation, we found there wasn’t a strong correlation between viral loads and colony survival. You could not use the level of these viruses as good predictors of colony losses,” Simone-Finstrom stated.

For more on this research study, see New Breed of Honey Bees a Major Advance in Global Fight Against Parasitic Varroa Mite.

Reference: “An obtained honey bee stock gives resistance to Varroa destructor and associated viral transmission” by Thomas A. O’Shea-Wheller, Frank D. Rinkevich, Robert G. Danka, Michael Simone-Finstrom, Philip G. Tokarz and Kristen B. Healy, 7 April 2022, Scientific Reports
DOI: 10.1038/ s41598-022-08643- w

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief clinical internal research study firm. Daily, ARS concentrates on options to farming issues impactingAmerica Each dollar purchased farming research study leads to $17 of financial effect.