This study demonstrated (1) that honey bees, Apis mellifera L, can express a high level of resistance to Varroa destructor Anderson & Trueman when bees were selected for only one resistant trait (suppression of mite reproduction); and (2) that a significant level of mite-resistance was retained when these queens were free-mated with unselected drones. The test compared the growth of mite populations in colonies of bees that each received one of the following queens: (1) resistant—queens selected for suppression of mite reproduction and artificially inseminated in Baton Rouge with drones from similarly selected stocks; (2) resistant × control—resistant queens, as above, produced and free-mated to unselected drones by one of four commercial queen producers; and (3) control—commercial queens chosen by the same four queen producers and free-mated as above. All colonies started the test with ≈0.9 kg of bees that were naturally infested with ≈650 mites. Colonies with resistant × control queens ended the 115-d test period with significantly fewer mites than did colonies with control queens. This suggests that beekeepers can derive immediate benefit from mite-resistant queens that have been free-mated to unselected drones. Moreover, the production and distribution of these free-mated queens from many commercial sources may be an effective way to insert beneficial genes into our commercial population of honey bees without losing the genetic diversity and the useful beekeeping characteristics of this population.
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Vol. 94 • No. 6