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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Bee Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #314017

Research Project: Managing Honey Bees against Disease and Colony Stress

Location: Bee Research Laboratory

Title: A descriptive study of the prevalence of parasites and pathogens in Chinese black honey bees, Apis mellifera mellifera

Author
item Peng, Wenjun - Chinese Academy Of Agricultural Sciences
item Zhao, Yazhou - Chinese Academy Of Agricultural Sciences
item Chen, Yanping - Judy
item Li, Jilian - Chinese Academy Of Agricultural Sciences
item Zeng, Zhijiang - Jiangxi Agricultural University

Submitted to: PLoS One
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/12/2015
Publication Date: 7/17/2015
Citation: Peng, W., Zhao, Y., Chen, Y., Li, J., Zeng, Z. 2015. A descriptive study of the prevalence of parasites and pathogens in Chinese black honey bees, Apis mellifera mellifera. PLoS One. 142: 1364–1374.

Interpretive Summary: Declines of honey bee populations around the world have created great concerns over the effects of various risk factors on bee health. Of proposed solutions for solving the problem, the selective breeding of bee resistant stock especially resistant to parasitic Varroa is likely to be the best long-term solution for managing bee health problems. In the present study, we identified that populations of black honey bees distributed in Northwestern and Northeastern regions of China were highly cold tolerant and displayed significantly higher levels of resistance to Varroa mites and Deformed wing virus, compared to their close cousin, the Italian bees. The results from this study suggest Chinese black bees offer valuable genetic resources for selection breeding on mite resistance. The information obtained from this study will be of interest to scientists in bee research societies, as well as the beekeeping community at large.

Technical Abstract: There has been increasing concern over declines in honey bee colony health that is negatively affected by multiple factors with parasitic mites Varroa destructor, which remains the single most detrimental one. The identification and selective breeding of resistant stock, especially bees resistant to Varroa, is likely to be the best long-term solution for managing bee health problem. The Chinese black honey bee is a distinct honey bee geographical subspecies that is distributed in Xinjiang, Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces of China. In order to explore unique selective advantages of Chinese black honey bees, we conducted a study to investigate the genetic origin and the parasites/pathogens profile on Chinese black honey bees. Our results showed that Chinese black bees were genetically divergent and were hybrids of subspecies, Apis mellifera carnica, A. m. anatolica and A. m. caucasica, suggesting that the practice of migratory beekeeping and commercial breeding might have promoted the gene flow of different subspecies. Screening for pathogens and parasites showed that Chinese black bees appeared to be cold tolerant and displayed significantly higher level of resistance to parasitic Varroa mites and honey bee viruses, compared to Italian bees. Further, a population of pure breeding black bees A. m. mellifera from an isolated region in Xinjiang province displayed an exceptionally high degree of resistance to cold weather, Varroa mites infestation, and Deformed wing virus infection. The results from this study suggest Chinese black bees offer valuable genetic resources for selection breeding on mite resistance and urge the need for effective policies and restoration programs for the conservation of the black honey bee in China.