Norwegian honey bees surviving Varroa destructor mite infestations by means of natural selection

Oddie, Melissa Alexandra; Dahle, Bjørn; Neumann, Peter (2017). Norwegian honey bees surviving Varroa destructor mite infestations by means of natural selection. PeerJ, 5(e3956), e3956. PeerJ, Ltd 10.7717/peerj.3956

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Background

Managed, feral and wild populations of European honey bee subspecies, Apis mellifera, are currently facing severe colony losses globally. There is consensus that the ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor, that switched hosts from the Eastern honey bee Apis cerana to the Western honey bee A. mellifera, is a key factor driving these losses. For >20 years, breeding efforts have not produced European honey bee colonies that can survive infestations without the need for mite control. However, at least three populations of European honey bees have developed this ability by means of natural selection and have been surviving for >10 years without mite treatments. Reduced mite reproductive success has been suggested as a key factor explaining this natural survival. Here, we report a managed A. mellifera population in Norway, that has been naturally surviving consistent V. destructor infestations for >17 years.

Methods

Surviving colonies and local susceptible controls were evaluated for mite infestation levels, mite reproductive success and two potential mechanisms explaining colony survival: grooming of adult worker bees and Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH): adult workers specifically detecting and removing mite-infested brood.

Results

Mite infestation levels were significantly lower in surviving colonies and mite reproductive success was reduced by 30% when compared to the controls. No significant differences were found between surviving and control colonies for either grooming or VSH.

Discussion

Our data confirm that reduced mite reproductive success seems to be a key factor for natural survival of infested A. mellifera colonies. However, neither grooming nor VSH seem to explain colony survival. Instead, other behaviors of the adult bees seem to be sufficient to hinder mite reproductive success, because brood for this experiment was taken from susceptible donor colonies only. To mitigate the global impact of V. destructor, we suggest learning more from nature, i.e., identifying the obviously efficient mechanisms favored by natural selection.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH)
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Institute of Bee Health

UniBE Contributor:

Oddie, Melissa Alexandra and Neumann, Peter

Subjects:

500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)
600 Technology > 630 Agriculture
500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology

ISSN:

2167-8359

Publisher:

PeerJ, Ltd

Funders:

[UNSPECIFIED] Ricola Foundation

Language:

English

Submitter:

Melissa Alexandra Yvonne Oddie

Date Deposited:

10 Apr 2018 08:53

Last Modified:

26 Oct 2019 15:05

Publisher DOI:

10.7717/peerj.3956

PubMed ID:

29085753

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.107172

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/107172

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