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Characteristics of honey bee colonies (Apis mellifera) in Sweden surviving Varroa destructor infestation

Abstract

A population of European honey bees (Apis mellifera) surviving Varroa destructor mite infestation in Sweden for over 10 years without treatment, demonstrate that a balanced host–parasite relationship may evolve over time. Colony-level adaptive traits linked to Varroa tolerance were investigated in this population to identify possible characteristics that may be responsible for colony survival in spite of mite infestations. Brood removal rate, adult grooming rate, and the mite distribution between brood and adults were not significantly different in the untreated population compared with treated control colonies. However, colony size and the reproductive success of the mite were significantly reduced in surviving colonies compared with control colonies. Our data suggest that colony-level adaptive traits may limit mite population growth by reducing mite reproduction opportunities and also by suppressing the mite reproductive success.

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Acknowledgments

Åke Lyberg is thanked for providing excellent field sites and beekeeping support. Financial support was provided by the Montagu Foundation Switzerland, within the SAVE project, the EU-funded 7th Framework project BEE DOC, Grant Agreement 244956, and Jordbruksverket for beekeeping and maintaining the original population of bees.

Caractéristiques des colonies d’abeilles (Apis mellifera) en Suède survivant à une infestation deVarroa destructor.

Varroa destructor / Apis mellifera / sélection naturelle / intéraction hôte-parasite / adaptation

Eigenschaften von Bienenvölkern (Apis mellifera) in Schweden, dieVarroa destructorInfektionen überleben.

Varroa destructor / Apis mellifera / Natürliche Selektion / Toleranz / Wirt-Parasit Wechselwirkung

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Correspondence to Barbara Locke.

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Manuscript editor: David Tarpy

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Locke, B., Fries, I. Characteristics of honey bee colonies (Apis mellifera) in Sweden surviving Varroa destructor infestation. Apidologie 42, 533–542 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13592-011-0029-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13592-011-0029-5

Keywords

  • Varroa destructor
  • Apis mellifera
  • natural selection
  • tolerance
  • host–parasite interaction