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Towards integrated control of varroa: effect of variation in hygienic behaviour among honey bee colonies on mite population increase and deformed wing virus incidence

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posted on 2023-06-08, 20:18 authored by Hasan M Al Toufailia, Esmaeil Amiri, Luciano Scandian, Per Kryger, Francis Ratnieks
Hygienic behaviour in the honey bee, Apis mellifera, is the uncapping and removal of dead, diseased or infected brood from sealed cells by worker bees. We determined the effect of hygienic behaviour on varroa population growth and incidence of deformed wing virus (DWV), which can be transmitted by varroa. We treated 42 broodless honey bee colonies with oxalic acid in early January 2013 to reduce varroa populations to low levels, which we quantified by extracting mites from a sample of worker bees. We quantified varroa levels, again when the colonies were broodless, 48 weeks later. During the summer the hygienic behaviour in each colony was quantified four times using the Freeze Killed Brood (FKB) removal assay, and ranged from 27.5 % to 100 %. Varroa population increased greatly over the season, and there was a significant negative correlation between varroa increase and FKB removal. This was entirely due to fully hygienic colonies with >95 % FKB having only 43 % of the varroa build up of the less hygienic colonies.None of the 14 colonies with >80 % FKB removal had overt symptoms of DWV, whilst 36 % of the less hygienic colonies did. Higher levels of FKB removal also correlated significantly with lower numbers of DWV RNA copies in worker bees, but not in varroa mites. On average, fully hygienic colonies had c. 10,000 times less viral RNA than less hygienic colonies.


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Journal of Apicultural Research




International Bee Research Association





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  • Evolution, Behaviour and Environment Publications

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