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A Quality Update on the Russian Honey Bee Program - L De Guzman

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  • A Quality Update on the Russian Honey Bee Program - L De Guzman

    A Quality Update on the Russian Honey Bee Program - L De Guzman

    USDA, ARS, Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics & Physiology Lab., Baton Rouge, USA


    The Russian honey bee (RHB) program released 17 lines that are resistant to Varroa destructor and Acarapis woodi and are good honey producers. Since 2008, the Russian Honeybee Breeders Association (RHBA) has been responsible for maintaining and selecting to improve the stock. We continue to use the stock for various behavioral studies including removal response towards mite-infested brood, grooming behavior, response to virus infection, and flight activities. RHB colonies were more hygienic towards mite-infested brood than Italian honey bees (IHB). Further, the RHB colonies that displayed the highest levels of hygiene also groomed Varroa longer. Regarding viral load, we found that both RHB pupae and their infesting mites had lower levels of Deformed Wing Virus and Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus than infested IHB and their corresponding Varroa, which may have helped RHB perform more flights which had longer flight durations. In 2016, the performance of Russian queens produced by the association (RHBAQ) was compared to those of commercial IHB, IHB mated with Russian drones (IHB-RUS) at our laboratory’s mating yard, and two commercially advertised Russian queens that were not produced by the association (non-RHBA1 and non-RHBA2). This experiment was repeated in 2017. For both years of evaluation, we found significant differences among the five genotypes for bee population, mite population and colony survival. Overall, the non-RHBA1 colonies were the smallest, but not different from non-RHBA2. While IHB colonies displayed high susceptibility to Varroa, pure RHBAQ maintained their mite resistance. The IHB-RUS hybrids were intermediate in resistance to that of pure RHBAQ and IHB colonies. Mite population growth in the two commercially advertised non-RHBA was inconsistent suggesting that not all non-RHBA queens have equal mite resistance, which may also vary from year to year. Low mite numbers may have contributed to the increased survival of RHBAQ colonies. Overall, our results suggest that Russian queens produced by RHBA have maintained their mite resistance, which probably resulted from a systematic breeding plan and drone-sharing among members.

    1. Brought to US in 1997 then in 2008 transferred to the Russian Honey bee association
    2. Slow Mite population growth
      1. Dozen factors are involved in Resistance
      2. At 20 weeks Russian varroa mites are at nearly 0 against Italians at over 2500 total mites in the hive
    3. Removal of Infested Brood and Mite drop
      1. Marked mites with whiteout that were placed in brood
      2. Russian responded quickly 57% of infested brood in 2 days took Italians 6 days to remove 57%. Italians total after 8 days was 62%, Russian removed 87.9%
    4. A Better way to look for grooming behavior is to look at darker, older mites on the tray drop
    5. Best purity results were from Russian breeder’s association sold bees over non-association Russian breeders
    6. Mixed results with hybrids with Russians (queen Italian x Russian drones)
    Kalispell, Montana Zone 4a
    Third Year Journeyman Beekeeper