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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

1 - Index Page (scroll down for more information)
2 - A USDA-ARS Project to Evaluate Resistance to
3 - An Importation of Potentially Varroa
4 - Evaluations of the Varroa-resistance of
5 - Resistance to the Parasitic Mite Varroa
6 - Multi-State Field Trials: Varroa Response
7 - Multi-State Field Trials: Honey Production
8 - Multi-State Field Trials: Acarapis Response
9 - The Release of ARS Russian Honey Bees
10 - Hygienic Behavior by Honey Bees from
11 - Well Groomed Bees Resist Tracheal Mites
12 - Well Groomed Bees Resist Tracheal Mites (1998)
13 - Suppression of Mite Reproduction (SMR Trait)
14 - Varroa jacobsoni Reproduction
15 - Population Measurements
16 - The SMR/VSH trait explained by hygienic behavior of adult bees
Well Groomed Bees Resist Tracheal Mites

WELL GROOMED BEES RESIST TRACHEAL MITES

 

Tracheal mites, Acarapis woodi, are parasites that pose a significant health problem for honey bees in the United States and in many other countries. Fortunately, some stocks of bees have an inherent genetic resistance to being infested by mites. Until the experiments described here, it was not known what specific characteristics enabled bees to resist infestation by the mites. Tracheal mites in a honey bee trachea (photo at 30X)
Tracheal mites in a honey bee trachea (photo at 30X)

 

Worker bee grooming its thorax with the right middle leg We tested the possibility that resistant bees may be better able to groom mites from their bodies. Bees of two stocks, one resistant and one susceptible to mites, were compared when we impaired their ability to groom themselves. Responses of both stocks were tested by removing the middle legs of uninfested, young adult bees, exposing the bees to mites in infested colonies, then retrieving the test bees and measuring parasitism.

Worker bee grooming its thorax with the right middle leg

 

In both stocks, bees with middle legs removed had greatly increased mite abundances. Most importantly, resistant bees with legs intact were much more efficient at removing mites than susceptible bees were. This is evidence of the importance of grooming as a mechanism of resistance. Mite infestation increased as more (0 vs. 1 vs. 2) middle legs were removed. In bees with only one leg removed, mite infestations were greater on the treated side. Restraining rather than removing middle legs also resulted in increased infestation.

Experimental bee with middle legs restrained (glued together) beneath the body
Experimental bee with middle legs restrained (glued together) under her body.

 

A fiure depicting treatments applied to bees and the resulting infestation by tracheal mites

 

Queen surrounded by attendants The results provide the first evidence of how some bees are able to avoid mite infestation. The findings are potentially useful to scientists and bee breeders trying to identify other resistant stocks and in selecting for the economically important trait of resistance.
Genetic resistance to tracheal mites can be used by bee breeders to improve stocks


Reference to full article:

Evidence of autogrooming as a mechanism of honey bee resistance to tracheal mite infestation. Journal of Apicultural Research 37: 39-46 (1998) by R. G. Danka and J. D. Villa.

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Last Modified: 3/26/2014
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