Several studies have shown that African honey bee populations are different from European honey bee populations, because they appear to be minimally affected when attacked by varroa mite: Varroa destructor is a pest found parasitising adult or immature honey bees, and is a threat to the survival of the apiculture industry.
This article reports on a study undertaken to test the hypothesis that resistant behavioural defences are responsible for the endurance of African honey bees against varroa. The investigators tested this hypothesis by comparing grooming and hygienic behaviours in the African savannah honey bee Apis mellifera scutellata in Kenya and A. mellifera hybrids of European origin in Florida, USA against the mite. Findings include: identification of two additional undescribed damaged mite categories associated with the grooming behaviour of both honey bee subspecies; and an infestation level of adult mite that was approximately three times higher in A. mellifera hybrids of European origin than in A. m. scutellata. The results provide valuable insights into why A. m. scutellata is minimally affected by varroa mite attack.
It is partly funded by the UK Department for International Development, a core donor of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology.
Nganso B.T., Fombong A.T., Yusuf A. A., Pirk C.W.W., Stuhl C. and Torto B. (2017) Hygienic and grooming behaviors in African and European honeybees—New damage categories in Varroa destructor. PLoS ONE 12 (6), e0179329. https://doi.org/0179310.0171371/journal.pone.0179329.
Hygienic and grooming behaviors in African and European honeybees—New damage categories in Varroa destructor