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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hopefully this question isn't silly, I am new to the bee world.

I have read a lot about how Puerto Rican bees seem to be incredibly resistant to Varroa mites. Is it possible this is just due to the climate in Puerto Rico being hotter and not the genetic makeup of the bees themselves?


Thanks!
 

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There has been a study done on this, unfortunately i cannot find it.

However the jist of it was this. - Once varroa arrived in Puerto Rico the bees were susceptable to them. But then at some point and nobody knows exactly when, or how they arrived, but africanised bees showed up, which were resistant to varroa.

The bee strains mingled, and at first were aggressive. Again, nobody knows just how it happened, but eventually they became a gentle strain of varroa resistant bees. They have been genetically tested and although gentle, they have africanised genes.

The study authors were not able to offer a definately proven explanation, but hypothesized that in the process of the mixing of the races, by pure chance, some bees inherited the africanised genes that give varroa resistance, but not the africanised genes for aggression. They further hypothesised that because Puerto Rico has a very dense human population, aggressive hives that caused problems were exterminated by people, but the gentle ones were left alone.

Whatever the explanation, I would love to have some of those bees!

Since you live there Karmahoneyproject, how are the Puerto Rican bees doing since the hurricane? Did a good number of decent bees survive?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hiya old timer! Thank you for your feedback and explanation. I have been traveling around the island and meeting with different apararios. Many of them were hit very badly. For example the Tainasoy one went from 53 hives down to 7 now. I actually am working for a new non profit the "Karma Honey Project" that will be helping to repopulate Puerto Rico through spreading awareness at schools, funding research, and donating money to farmers here to build new hives. The possible end goal would be to export the bees to help repopulate worldwide with a hardier bee.

We are in the research phase learning and talking to people about what would be possible. There was a summit here recently and one of the floated ideas was that there would be a certification on Puerto Rican bees done by the university to ensure their quality before export.

1) It seems export is currently allowed but it depends on to what state?

2) Perhaps the bees may not survive? Another member here had this to say "I have read that AHB do not do well or migrate Above 35-40 degrees north or below 35-40 south. However, Tom Seeley checked on some "wild" bees in upstate NY and they had a significant AHB DNA. "

I would love to hear some feedback and advice from everyone here!


kind regards,

Devon
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·

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Biosecurity laws prevent the importation of Caribbean bees into the continental US. You would have to change the law, and that is not going to happen.
 

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Most people in Puerto Rico can't afford to treat their bees. A couple of decades of no treatments is the cause.
This does not explain why they are gentle. I could speculate that it is a combination of effects where vicious colonies are killed and where the genetics for high levels of aggressiveness have negative implications because it drags down other survival traits.

Of more concern is that the bees in Puerto Rico do not experience winter therefore may not be adapted to colder climates.

I was in Puerto Rico as part of a disaster recovery team working on the phone offices just over a year ago.


This is what a cellphone tower looks like after a hurricane turns it into a pretzel. http://www.selectedplants.com/miscan/celltower.jpg Believe it or not, the tower was still working with one antenna functional allowing calls to be made.

This is what was done to the power and communications cables on the east end of the island which took the brunt of the storm. http://www.selectedplants.com/miscan/cables.jpg
 

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When doing another research on pesticides in waxes I found this reference:
Good find Eduardo, that sounds like they are discussing the same study i was thinking of. :)

For example the Tainasoy one went from 53 hives down to 7 now. I actually am working for a new non profit the "Karma Honey Project" that will be helping to repopulate Puerto Rico
That's good to hear Karmahoneyproject, that at least enough of the bees survived to get things started again.

The possible end goal would be to export the bees to help repopulate worldwide with a hardier bee.
That would be a great idea. Unfortunately my country also bans the importation of bees, or i would love to have some of these bees.

The thing would be to find some country that allows the importation of bees, and send some bees there, the idea of certification is a good one. The thing is, populations of these bees should be established in other countries, because there could always be another natural disaster in Puerto Rico and this precious resource could be lost.

Some countries have quarantine islands, places where livestock etc that are not allowed to be imported, can be kept for sometimes several years, to ensure there is no risk, before importing to the mainland. Issue being the use of such facilities often involves massive bureaucracy and expense. But if there are no suitable countries to directly import these bees, investigating who would be prepared to use a quarantine island could be another option.
 

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Most people in Puerto Rico can't afford to treat their bees. A couple of decades of no treatments is the cause.
*edit*

In actual fact, not ideological fantasy, Puerto Rico habors the "Japanese" type genotype of Varroa. This is known to less virulent, and as on other islands (Fernando de Noronha 350 km out to sea off Brazil) the Japanese genotype in Varroa does not yet support the most virulent DWV strains.

Through pure luck, supported by vigilant biosecurity, Puerto Rico has been blessed by a Varroa strain that is less destructive.

In fact, the relatively low virulence of the Japanese strain and its associated virus likely permitted the African + European introgression in bees that produced the unique Puerto Rican strain. Natural survival of the European bees, because the Varroa was less deadly, permitted a genotype mixture (as the African bee did not have a predominant survival advantage).

In the prescence of Korean-type Varroa, all bets are off, and "exporting" a Puerto Rican bee is simply sending it to its death in a much crueler world.

I wish the "treatment free" partisans would refrain from making up facts when they think they can twist any situation to prove their points.


Cite: Guzman and Rinderer, 1999, Identification and comparison of Varroa species infesting honey bees
J.C.V. Guerra Jr. 2010, RAPD identification of Varroa destructor genotypes in Brazil and other regions of the Americas
 

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*edit*

In actual fact, not ideological fantasy, Puerto Rico habors the "Japanese" type genotype of Varroa......... the Japanese genotype in Varroa does not yet support the most virulent DWV strains..... the relatively low virulence of the Japanese strain.........
Okay, Javanese, as from Indonesian island of Java.
 

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is it too far fetched to surmise that the many years of non-treatment may have contributed to the predominance of these less virulent mites/viruses?
 

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is it too far fetched to surmise that the many years of non-treatment may have contributed to the predominance of these less virulent mites/viruses?
Not according to the research of Stephen Martin on Fernando de Noronha. He investigated the claims the island bees became 1) resistant to Varroa, or 2) the virulence of the virus associated with the Varroa declined. He found instead the island is a "ticking time-bomb" -- just an accident of history away from a virulent DWV and/or the Korean mites that carry it.
 

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Not according to the research of Stephen Martin on Fernando de Noronha...

i'm not familiar with that research jwc, and this was all i could find by searching:


http://usir.salford.ac.uk/37220/23/ABJ%20Brazil%20article-submitted[1].pdf


dr. martin mentions returning to the brazilian island to study these european (not african) honey bees, and there is a later paper looking specifically at the expression of deformed wings:


https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct...0/8/1/28/pdf&usg=AOvVaw3Vt0mZy0SzoZq6yKxnqpTU


But neither of these cites contain your paraphrased conclusion:

He found instead the island is a "ticking time-bomb" -- just an accident of history away from a virulent DWV and/or the Korean mites that carry it.
can you point us to the paper from which you got this?
 

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>This does not explain why they are gentle. I could speculate that it is a combination of effects where vicious colonies are killed and where the genetics for high levels of aggressiveness have negative implications because it drags down other survival traits.

In places like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, vicious colonies are quickly eradicated. People notice aggressive bees. They don't notice the gentle ones. The bees swarm constantly there and they set up house in people's walls, and soffits where people notice when they are aggressive.
 

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https://www.salford.ac.uk/environment-life-sciences/our-staff/els-academics/steven-martin

there are 137 references here for dr. martin, and after a scan of the titles i don't find any related to varroa genotype on fernando de noronha.

i also couldn't find any research on varroa genotype for puerto rico.

i'm not saying the research doesn't exist, just that i couldn't find any to support jwc's train of thought:


Through pure luck, supported by vigilant biosecurity, Puerto Rico has been blessed by a Varroa strain that is less destructive.

most of what i saw with a quick skim of what's out there is attributing varroa resistance by the puerto rican bees to mite biting and grooming.
 

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i came across this while looking over some of dr. martin's work:

"It was originally suggested that the Japanese haplotype of Varroa was less ‘virulent’ than the Korean haplotype. This was proposed as the reason for Varroa tolerance among the Fernando de Noronha population and in Africanized bees. However, the Korean haplotype is now found in Africanized bees without any loss of tolerance."

from: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep45953

this is the paper dr. martin discusses the fernando de noronha bees.

also from that paper:

"this is the first honey bee population where DWV is associated with a Varroa infested honey bee population for a long period of time (32 years) and no virulent strain has appeared."

the 'ticking time bomb' postulated by dr. martin has more to do with viral mutation to a more virulent strain than with haplotype of varroa.

"Moreover it is just a matter of time before an overt outbreak of a virulent variant appears that has the capability to spell disaster for the bees of Fernando de Noronha."

and:

"It also explains why when in 1997 six queens were transferred from Fernando de Noronha to Germany to head colonies and study whether heritable hygienic behaviour is responsible for their Varroa tolerance. Although no difference in hygienic abilities compared to the local population were found indicating no genetic basis for the tolerance is present. These colonies all died during the winter or early spring (Peter Rosenkranz, personal communication) since the bees and mites would for the first time be exposed to the virulent DWV strains circulating in the local bee population."

so here is another case in which resistance did not follow when the bees were moved to another location, but it involves a different subspecies of bee from a different island than puerto rico.
 

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to the thread title, the 'cause' was looked at here:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492899/

from which comes:

"Mites were present in the studied Africanized colonies, but the levels were low. Grooming and biting rather than hygienic behavior seem to be the mechanisms that convey resistance to Varroa mites. The studied Africanized bees autogroomed for longer bouts and with more success than European bees. The Africanized bees also bit and damaged mites. Moreover, because half the biting occurred before grooming, it is possible that the bees remove the mites from the colony; this could explain the low mite population levels observed in this and other studies (e.g. Mondragón et al. 2005) of Africanized bees."
 

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If the PR bees were not treated due to economic concerns it would seem this could be part of the puzzle. If there was not any tolerance for hot hives due to human proximity this too seems to make sense as well, and is probably another part of the puzzle.

I have have another theory that may play into the question and be another partial cause. Here in my part of AZ there are square miles of open desert with presumably many "wild" colonies and they are definitely AHB descendants. There are proportionately more "wild" colonies to Beekeeper colonies here. So when a hive goes nasty in my part of Arizona it gets pretty bad. I spoke with a Texas Beekeeper today and I asked about AHB issues in his part of Texas where it would seem there are many more kept colonies. He mentioned when a hive in his area gets ornery due to AHB they are "Not that bad" but bad enough to requeen. So after all this preamble, I have been thinking that if the AHB to EHB ratio in PR was lower than say Arizona, it could be a contributing factor to the bees in PR being more docile. The obvious flaw in this theory is why would they be more docile and yet retain Varroa resistance.

Whatever the reasons for the disposition/ mite resistance is, I think if it is discovered, it will be multi-faceted.
 
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