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Increased Tolerance and Resistance to Virus Infections: A Possible Factor in the Survival of Varroa destructor-Resistant Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)The honey bee ectoparasitic mite, Varroa destructor, has a world-wide distribution and inflicts more damage than all other known apicultural diseases. However, Varroa-induced colony mortality is more accurately a result of secondary virus infections vectored by the mite. This means that honey bee resistance to Varroa may include resistance or tolerance to virus infections. The aim of this study was to see if this is the case for a unique population of mite-resistant (MR) European honey bees on the island of Gotland, Sweden. This population has survived uncontrolled mite infestation for over a decade, developing specific mite-related resistance traits to do so. Using RT-qPCR techniques, we monitored late season virus infections, Varroa mite infestation and honey bee colony population dynamics in the Gotland MR population and compared this to mite-susceptible (MS) colonies in a close by apiary. From summer to autumn the deformed wing virus (DWV) titres increased similarly between the MR and MS populations, while the black queen cell virus (BQCV) and sacbrood virus (SBV) titres decreased substantially in the MR population compared to the MS population by several orders of magnitude. The MR colonies all survived the following winter with high mite infestation, high DWV infection, small colony size and low proportions of autumn brood, while the MS colonies all perished. Possible explanations for these changes in virus titres and their relevance to Varroa resistance and colony winter survival are discussed.


Full paper here:
http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0099998
 

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interesting study cam, and evidence that the bees are able to develop natural resistance on a shorter time scale than some have thought possible. i wish the authors would have explored mitochondrial dna testing to see if there was a difference in subspecies between the mr and ms colonies.
 

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It also may explain why some treatment free bees survive and others perish. Personally I can't wait the 10 years for this to develop. Every attempt at treatment free has failed for me. Might be my beekeeping but others around me are having the same results.
 

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It also may explain why some treatment free bees survive and others perish.
agreed. even if one brings in proven genetics most of that will get diluted after the original queen gets replaced, especially if there are no survivor colonies nearby to mate with.

alternative approaches would be to try locating and collecting feral colonies in one's area that have been observed to overwinter successfully for a year or two, or to obtain bees from someone in the area that are proven and adopt a similar methodology.

not all areas may have surviving feral colonies (yet), or may be saturated with commercially bred bees not having resistance. it's not surprising to me that some attempts at treatment free fail, even when undertaken by capable beekeepers such as yourself.
 
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