Phenotypic and Genetic Analyses of the Varroa Sensitive Hygienic Trait in Russian Honey Bee (Apidae) Colonies

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Phenotypic and Genetic Analyses of the Varroa Sensitive Hygienic Trait in Russian Honey Bee (Apidae) Colonies

Postby ExpatBeekeeper » Sat Jul 04, 2015 3:01 pm

Varroa destructor continues to threaten colonies of European honey bees. General hygiene, and more specific Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH), provide resistance towards the Varroa mite in a number of stocks. In this study, 32 Russian (RHB) and 14 Italian honey bee colonies were assessed for the VSH trait using two different assays. Firstly, colonies were assessed using the standard VSH behavioural assay of the change in infestation of a highly infested donor comb after a one-week exposure. Secondly, the same colonies were assessed using an “actual brood removal assay” that measured the removal of brood in a section created within the donor combs as a potential alternative measure of hygiene towards Varroa-infested brood. All colonies were then analysed for the recently discovered VSH quantitative trait locus (QTL) to determine whether the genetic mechanisms were similar across different stocks. Based on the two assays, RHB colonies were consistently more hygienic toward Varroa-infested brood than Italian honey bee colonies. The actual number of brood cells removed in the defined section was negatively correlated with the Varroa infestations of the colonies (r2 = 0.25). Only two (percentages of brood removed and reproductive foundress Varroa) out of nine phenotypic parameters showed significant associations with genotype distributions. However, the allele associated with each parameter was the opposite of that determined by VSH mapping. In this study, RHB colonies showed high levels of hygienic behaviour towards Varroa -infested brood. The genetic mechanisms are similar to those of the VSH stock, though the opposite allele associates in RHB, indicating a stable recombination event before the selection of the VSH stock. The measurement of brood removal is a simple, reliable alternative method of measuring hygienic behaviour towards Varroa mites, at least in RHB stock.

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