New insights on how bees battle deadly varroa mite by grooming

In a new study published in the  Journal of Apicultural Research , scientists have compared the ability of two strains of honey bees to defend themselves against the parasitic mite varroa by grooming the mites from their bodies.

The mite  Varroa destructor  is generally considered to be the greatest threat to honey bees worldwide because it transmits virus diseases which lead to colony death. Treatments by various chemicals have become less effective in recent years because the mites have become resistant to them. This has led to attempts to breed strains of bee that are resistant to the mite. One of the possible mechanisms of resistance is “grooming” behaviour, where bees brush bees from themselves (autogrooming) or brush bees from their nestmates (allogrooming). It has long been known that different strains of bee differ in their resistance to varroa. In particular so-called Africanized bees (hybrids of  Apis mellifera scutellata ) bees appear to have more resistance than European strains.

Ciro Invernizzi and colleagues from the Facultad de Ciencias, Montevideo, Uruguay, compared grooming behaviour in Italian ( Apis mellifera ligustica ) and Africanized bees. They found that at the individual level, Africanized bees showed a higher total number of reaction behaviours to  V. destructor  than did Italian bees, and colonies of Africanized bees showed a higher proportion of injured mites than colonies of Italian bees did.

The authors state:   “Africanized bees are characterized by presenting higher resistance to  V. destructor  than European bees. This study shows that such difference can be, partly due to grooming behaviour.”

International Bee Research Association (IBRA) Science Director Norman Carreck commented: “This interesting study adds to our knowledge about resistance mechanisms, and may aid the search for bees resistant to varroa.”

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* Read the full article online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00218839.2016.1159055

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Taylor & Francis Group partners with researchers, scholarly societies, universities and libraries worldwide to bring knowledge to life. As one of the world’s leading publishers of scholarly journals, books, ebooks and reference works our content spans all areas of Humanities, Social Sciences, Behavioral Sciences, Science, and Technology and Medicine. From our network of offices in Oxford, New York, Philadelphia, Boca Raton, Boston, Melbourne, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, Stockholm, New Delhi and Johannesburg, Taylor & Francis staff provide local expertise and support to our editors, societies and authors and tailored, efficient customer service to our library colleagues.

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