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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Baton Rouge, Louisiana » Honey Bee Lab » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #299119

Title: Functionality of Varroa-Resistant Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) When Used for Western U.S. Honey Production and Almond Pollination

item Rinderer, Thomas
item Danka, Robert
item Bilodeau, Lanie
item Frake, Amanda
item Villa, Joseph
item De Guzman, Lilia
item HARRIS, JEFFREY - Former ARS Employee

Submitted to: Journal of Economic Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/7/2014
Publication Date: 4/10/2014
Citation: Rinderer, T.E., Danka, R.G., Bourgeois, A.L., Frake, A.M., Villa, J.D., De Guzman, L.I., Harris, J.W. 2014. Functionality of Varroa-Resistant Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) When Used for Western U.S. Honey Production and Almond Pollination. Journal of Economic Entomology. 107(2):523-530.

Interpretive Summary: Varroa resistant honey bees (Russian honey bees and outcrossed honey bees with the Varroa sensitive hygiene trait) developed by the USDA-ARS honey bee laboratory in Baton Rouge were evaluated in a mid-western beekeeping system that produces honey and pollinates almonds. Many beekeepers use this management system and it is important to know the performance of these stocks in these conditions. Overall, both stock performed well and are suitable for use with this management system. However, Russian bees produced less honey in one year than controls and Varroa sensitive hygine bees had unusually high numbers of Varroa in one year. Both these results are atypical when compared to other studies and suggest that the use of these stocks, as is the case with all beekeeping, requires management that attends to the consequences of unusual weather patterns and is vigilant for unusual epizootic events.

Technical Abstract: Two types of honey bees, Apis mellifera L., bred for resistance to Varroa destructor Anderson & Trueman, were evaluated for performance when used for honey production in Montana, USA, and for almond pollination the following winter. Colonies of Russian honey bees (RHB) and outcrossed honey bees with Varroa-sensitive hygiene (VSH) were compared with control colonies of Italian honey bees. All colonies were managed without miticide treatments. Totals of 166 and 155 colonies were established for trials in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, respectively. Survival of colonies with original queens or with supersedure queens was similar among stocks for both years. Colony sizes of the Varroa-resistant stocks were as large or larger than the control colonies during periods critical to honey production and almond pollination. Honey production varied among stocks. In the first year, all stocks produced similar amounts of honey. In the second year, RHB colonies produced less honey than the control colonies. Varroa destructor infestations also varied among stocks. In the first year, control colonies had more infesting mites than either of the Varroa-resistant stocks, especially later in the year. In the second year, the control and outcrossed VSH colonies had high and damaging levels of infestation while the RHB colonies maintained lower levels of infestation. Infestations of Acarapis woodi were generally infrequent and low. All the stocks had similarly high Nosema ceranae infections in the spring and following winter of both years. Overall, the two Varroa-resistant stocks functioned well in this model beekeeping system.