Behavioral defenses of honey bees against Varroa jacobsoni Oud.

Otto Boecking, Marla Spivak

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

201 Scopus citations


Two behaviors of honey bees, hygienic behavior and grooming, are mechanisms of defense against brood diseases and parasitic mites. Studies have shown that Apis mellifera colonies remove worker brood infested with Varroa jacobsoni mites from the nest (hygienic behavior), and groom the mites off other adult bees, but to a limited extent compared to the original host of V. jacobsoni, A. cerana. Research is reviewed on hygienic and grooming behaviors with respect to their potential as mechanisms of resistance to V. jacobsoni. Studies related to hygienic behavior include the removal of experimentally infested and naturally infested brood, measurements of heritability, the uncapping and recapping of cells containing infested pupae, and the detection of infested brood. Studies on grooming include the process by which a groomer detects and damages a mite found on itself or on another adult bee, how the behavior is quantified, and problems with these methods of quantification. Finally, unresolved questions concerning grooming and the effects of hygienic and non-hygienic behaviors on limiting the population growth of V. jacobsoni are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-158
Number of pages18
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1999


  • Apis cerana
  • Apis mellifera
  • Grooming behavior
  • Hygienic behavior
  • Resistance
  • Tolerance
  • Varroa jacobsoni


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