Hardy Russian honey bees that resist attack by devastating varroa
mites will begin showing up in American beehives within a year, thanks to
scientists in Louisiana with the Agricultural Research Service, USDAs
chief research wing. The Russian bees' genetic resistance will provide
beekeepers with a tool--in addition to chemical pesticides--to control the
Varroa mites--eight-legged parasites--are among the worst enemies
of honey bees worldwide. In the U.S., the mites have attacked bees in almost
every state. Though only about one- sixteenth-inch in size, they can destroy a
hive of tens of thousands of bees in as little as 6 months. The mites have also
eliminated most of North America's wild honey bees.
Under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement signed this
week by ARS and Bernards Apiaries, Inc., Breaux Bridge, La., bee breeder
Steven J. Bernard is authorized to raise hundreds of Russian honey bee queens
this fall and winter. The bees will be available for sale to U.S. beekeepers
early next year. The beekeepers will use the queens to produce more queens for
populating hives with mite-resistant offspring. These offspring will be
fathered by male bees, known as drones, from the American hives.
Compared to domestic honey bees, the Russian bees are more than
twice as resistant to attack by varroa mites, according to tests by geneticist
Rinderer and colleagues at ARS
Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Research Unit in Baton Rouge, La.
The domestic honey bee and the Russian honey bee are the same
species, Apis mellifera. But the Russian bees have had to develop
resistance to survive in their homeland, the mite- infested Primorsky region of
far eastern Russia. Rinderer studied the bees there, then imported them under a
Besides producing honey, honey bees pollinate dozens of crops,
from apples to zucchini, worth $8 to $10 billion. An article in the August
issue of the agency's monthly magazine,
Agricultural Research, tells
more. View it on the World Wide Web at
Scientific contact: Thomas E.
Rinderer, ARS Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Research Unit,
Baton Rouge, La., phone (225) 767-9280, fax (225) 766-9212,