[NAFEX] FW: Bee Trait Keeps Mites From Multiplying

Lon J. Rombough lonrom at hevanet.com
Wed May 12 18:32:36 EDT 2004

From: ARS News Service <NewsService at ars.usda.gov>
Reply-To: ARS News Service <NewsService at ars.usda.gov>
Date: Wed, 12 May 2004 11:27:35 -0400
To: ARS News subscriber <lonrom at hevanet.com>
Subject: Bee Trait Keeps Mites From Multiplying

Trait in Honey Bees Keeps Mites From Multiplying

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Erin Peabody, (301) 504-1624, ekpeabody at ars.usda.gov
May 12, 2004

For more than 20 years, beekeepers have been battling varroa mites. The
tiny, bloodsucking parasites weaken adult bees and sometimes cause
deformities. But entomologists with the Agricultural Research Service
have discovered that some bees have a built-in defense against varroa
mites, a trait that can be bred into any bee population.

Honey bees deliver pollen necessary for the production of $15 billion
worth of U.S. crops. Varroa mites are a serious threat to this
important, bee-dependant productivity and can wipe out an untreated
colony in under two years.

Called SMR, for "suppressed mite reproduction," the newly-found trait
protects bees by keeping harmful varroa mites from reproducing. It's
hoped that when adequately bred into bee populations, SMR can one day
free beekeepers from their dependance on chemical miticides.

ARS entomologists John R. Harbo and Jeffrey W. Harris, in the agency's
Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Research Unit at Baton
Rouge, La., discovered the SMR trait while searching for the reason
behind reduced mite populations observed in some bee colonies. While
honey bees can fend off mites through grooming and other hygienic
behaviors, a different factor appeared to be at play in those colonies.

The researchers found that some mites simply weren't reproducing. They
watched female mites entering brood cells--the small pockets, or
honeycomb, where young bees develop--but not laying any eggs. Following
genetic studies, the researchers determined that a trait in these honey
bees was responsible for inhibiting the mites' reproduction.

To help beekeepers whose hives are suffering from varroa infestations,
ARS has provided the SMR trait to Glenn Apiaries, a commercial queen
honey bee producer in Fallbrook, Calif., that sells SMR breeder queens.
With selective breeding, the SMR trait can eliminate mite reproduction
in worker brood cells.

Harbo and Harris are studying a second trait in bees linked to mite
resistance. Called P-MIB, for "percentage of mites in brood," the trait
is an ideal complement to SMR because it curbs mite populations from
outside, rather than inside, the brood cell where SMR comes into play.

Read more about this research in the May issue of Agricultural Research
magazine, available online at:

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research


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