Honey bee hygienic behavior and defense against Varroa jacobsoni

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Hygienic and non-hygienic colonies from 'Starline' stock of Apis mellifera were tested for their ability to remove pupae infested with Varroa mites. The hygienic and non-hygienic lines were selected and bred on the basis of their removal response to freeze-killed brood. A Jenter Box® was used to test whether they would remove experimentally infested pupae following methods of Boecking and Drescher (1992). In 1994, the hygienic colonies removed significantly more pupae infested with one mite per cell than the non-hygienic colonies. In 1995, there was no significant difference between the hygienic and non-hygienic colonies when one or two mites were introduced per pupa due to variation in response among hygienic colonies. There was no significant difference between the rate of removal of infested pupae from the Jenter Box and from natural wax comb by the hygienic colonies. The number of mites damaged by grooming ranged from 6.0 to 42.3% among all colonies. The reproductive success of the mites not removed from the cells by the bees was low in both hygienic and non-hygienic colonies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-260
Number of pages16
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996


  • Apis mellifera
  • Varroa jacobsoni
  • breeding
  • grooming
  • hygienic behavior
  • mite resistance


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