USDA SARE Grant Winner
VP Queen Bees received a SARE farmer grant in 2008, from the USDA, to research ways to select queen bees for mite tolerance. Using the Alcohol Wash Assay (AWA) we tested breeder queen candidates. Our idea was to determine if a simple sampling for phoretic Varroa mites taken multiple times over the season would aid us in selection for mite resistant queen mothers. We planned to compare the AWA results to another popular selection test.
This test, known as the Freeze Killed Brood Assay, (FKB) is used to determine if the subject colony tested has non-specific hygienic behavior. If workers can remove 90 or more percent of freeze-killed brood in a 24-hour period, the queen is deemed to be hygienic-- that is she will impart this behavior to her offspring. The FKB assay does not test for specific mite removing hygienic behavior. This mite removing hygienic behavior is known as VSH behavior. Most mite resistant bee populations show both types of hygienic behaviors and test positively for them, thus making selection for mite resistance in bee stocks possible. Read more about VSH in honey bees.
We wanted to compare results of the AWA with the FKB over a normal breeding season to determine if both tests were necessary yearly. We planned to use our mite resistant bees and susceptible production bees as our control. Our control colonies failed after establishment the first year, however. With only one season left to perform our research, we opted to test the remaining colonies using the AWA . We hoped our data would be useful. Read more about the Alcohol Wash Assay and our research.
Pictures of alcohol wash assay to detect varroa mite levels in honey bees.