Grooming and hygienic behaviours of the honey bee (Apis mellifera) toward the parasitic mite Varroa destructor

Thumbnail Image
Kirrane, Maria J.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University College Cork
Published Version
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Despite a multitude of environmental stressors, the Varroa mite is still regarded as the greatest cause of honey bee mortality in its invaded range. Breeding honey bees that are resistant to the mite is an important area of research. This thesis aimed to gain a better understanding of the grooming and hygienic behaviours of Russian honey bees (RHB). The effect of a break in the synchrony of a mite’s life cycle on reproductive success was tested through brood inoculation experiments. Mites released by hygienic behaviour and forced to enter a new cell are less likely to lay male offspring. Through laboratory cage assays it was found that daughter mites are more susceptible to grooming behaviour. A new method of marking Varroa mites was developed which would enable a single cohort of mites to be followed after inoculation. A strong brood removal trait was noticed in RHB colonies, therefore they were tested for Varroa sensitive hygienic (VSH) behaviour. RHB demonstrated levels of VSH as high as the USDA line bred specifically for this behaviour. In addition the same QTL found to be responsible for the trait in VSH bees, was associated with VSH in RHB stock. Previous work showed that the ratio of older mites to total trapped mites (O/T) in the debris of honey bee colonies demonstrated the strongest association with colony infestation. This research showed that O/T is associated with VSH and brood removal behaviour. In addition, bees that displayed high levels of VSH in this study were also more likely to spend a longer amount of time grooming in laboratory assays. This indicates that both grooming and hygienic behaviours play important roles in the resistance of RHB stock. Their likelihood to be expressed by other stocks is discussed and recommendations for further research are provided.
Varroa mite , Varroa sensitive hygiene , Russian honey bees , Honey bee , Grooming behaviour , Hygienic behaviour , Host-parasite interactions , Resistance
Kirrane, M. J. 2014. Grooming and hygienic behaviours of the honey bee (Apis mellifera) toward the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.