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 [immediate: 13/6/16] 


 New study on grooming behaviour by honey bees against varroa 

In a new study, scientists have compared the ability of two strains of honey bees to defend themselves against the parasitic mite varroa by grooming the mites from their bodies. 

The varroa mite Varroa destructor is generally considered to be the greatest threat to honey bees worldwide because it transmits virus diseases which lead to colony death. Treatments by various chemicals have become less effective in recent years because the mites have become resistant to them. This has led to attempts to breed strains of bee that are resistant to the mite. One of the possible mechanisms of resistance is “grooming” behaviour, where bees brush bees from themselves (autogrooming) or brush bees from their nestmates (allogrooming). It has long been known that different strains of bee differ in their resistance to varroa. In particular so-called Africanized bees (hybrids of Apis mellifera scutellata) bees appear to have more resistance than European strains. 

In this new paper published in the Journal of Apicultural Research, Ciro Invernizzi and colleagues from the Facultad de Ciencias, Montevideo, Uruguay, compared grooming behaviour in Italian (Apis mellifera ligustica) and Africanized bees. They found that at the individual level, Africanized bees showed a higher total number of reaction behaviours to V. destructor than did Italian bees, and colonies of Africanized bees showed a higher proportion of injured mites than colonies of Italian bees did. 

The authors state: “Africanized bees are characterized by presenting higher resistance to V. destructor than European bees. This study shows that such difference can be, partly due to grooming behaviour”. 

IBRA Science Director Norman Carreck says: “This interesting study adds to our knowledge about resistance mechanisms, and may aid the search for bees resistant to varroa.” 


Norman Carreck, Science Director, IBRA +44 (0)791 8670169 Email: 


1. The paper: “Multilevel assessment of grooming behaviour against Varroa destructor in Italian and Africanized honey bees” by Ciro Invernizzi, Ignacio Zefferino, Estela Santos, Lucía Sánchez and Yamandú Mendoza is available here:- 

2. The International Bee Research Association (IBRA) founded in 1949 is the world’s longest established apicultural research publishers and promotes the value of bees by providing information on bee science and beekeeping worldwide. 

3. In association with the Taylor & Francis Group, IBRA publishes Bee World, founded by the Apis Club in 1919. This is now an accessible and topical journal containing the latest bee research, news, reviews and other relevant information for the bee scientist, beekeeper, and anyone with an interest in bees. It is published four times a year: 

4. In association with the Taylor & Francis Group, IBRA publishes the peer-reviewed scientific journal the Journal of Apicultural Research, founded by IBRA in 1962. It includes original research articles, theoretical papers; scientific notes and comments; together with authoritative reviews on scientific aspects of the biology, ecology, natural history, conservation and culture of all types of bee. It is published five times a year. The ISI Impact Factor (2014) is 1.895 and the ISI 5-year Impact Factor is 1.942: 

5. IBRA publishes and sells books on bee science, bee conservation and beekeeping and also provides bee information services. IBRA is a Registered Charity, and its Council of Trustees boasts some of the world’s leading bee scientists. 

6. IBRA membership rates 2016:- 

IBRA Membership including Bee World (£36 €50 $US57) IBRA Membership including online Journal of Apicultural Research (£90 €125 $US141) IBRA Membership including online and print Journal of Apicultural Research (£150 €208 $US235) 

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