The varroa mite is a small parasite very dangerous for bees: besides pesticides, it is the greatest threat to managed honey bee colonies globally. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists announced that they have bred honeybees to resist these pesky mites. The USDA has spent the past 14 years breeding the “Pol-line” strain of honeybees, that have many beneficial traits: they have large colonies, they produce lots of honey, and they exhibit the ability to expelling infested pupae, called varroa-sensitive hygiene.
Because the mites originated in Asia, the European honeybees most commonly used in commercial operations do not have natural resistance to them, the University of Exeter explained. About 29% of bee colonies lose too many worker bees over the winter to remain viable in the spring, according to Science. This is because of various threats, including pesticides and poor nutrition, but varroa mites are the leading concern.
Overall, 60% of Pol-line bees survived the winter compared with 26% of regular bees, University of Exeter said. The colonies of the Pol-line bees also had fewer cases of three viruses associated with varroa mites.The success of the Pol-line bees in the new study offer a solution to beekeepers that doesn’t rely on chemical mite-killing treatments. (source: ecowatch.com)
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