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Research Project: Managing Diseases and Pests of Honey Bees to Improve Queen and Colony Health

Location: Bee Research Laboratory

Title: A Scientific note on Varroa mites found in East Africa; Threat or Opportunity

item Frazier, Maryann
item Muli, Eluid
item Conklin, Tracy
item Schmehl, Daniel
item Torto, Baldwyn
item Frazier, James
item Tumlinson, James
item Evans, Jay
item Raina, Suresh

Submitted to: Apidologie
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/30/2009
Publication Date: 1/10/2010
Citation: Frazier, M., Muli, E., Conklin, T., Schmehl, D., Torto, B., Frazier, J., Tumlinson, J., Evans, J.D., Raina, S. 2010. A Scientific note on Varroa mites found in East Africa; Threat or Opportunity. Apidologie. 41:463-465.

Interpretive Summary: Honey bees are an important part of worldwide agriculture, pollinating a substantial fraction of crops. Honey bees suffer from numerous threats including Varroa mites and viruses. Wild honey bee populations in the U.S. have virtually disappeared since the parasitic mite Varroa destructor was introduced. There have been no reports of Varroa mites across much of Africa. Here we present evidence for the presence of Varroa in several African countries. This is alarming given the risk of mites to that continent's beekeeping industry. Interestingly, preliminary evidence suggests that mite levels are not extremely high in African colonies, perhaps indicating a natural resistance among these honey bee subspecies. This information can help regulators determine how to reduce the spread of mites within and from Africa, and might point to new methods for determining an important resistance trait on bees.

Technical Abstract: Varroa mites have devastated Apis mellifera L. honeybee populations wherever they co-occur around the world, yet in East Africa these mites may have finally met their match. Varroa destructor Anderson and Truman (Acari:Varroidae) was found in Kenya and Tanzania for the first time in early 2009, but beekeepers surveyed there do not observe that these mites are having any negative impacts on their bees’ survival or productivity. In contrast, Varroa mites are blamed for much of the decline in North American and European honey bee populations. The mites in East Africa are identical with the primary lineage of Varroa worldwide. If A. mellifera colonies in Africa succumb to Varroa as they have in other parts of the world, the results could be devastating to both agricultural production and non-agricultural ecosystems. Nevertheless, early evidence suggests that mite levels are being held in check in these African populations, perhaps reflecting strong resistance mechanisms found in African bees.