Advances and perspectives in selecting resistance traits against the parasitic mite Varroa destructor in honey bees

Genet Sel Evol. 2020 Nov 27;52(1):71. doi: 10.1186/s12711-020-00591-1.


Background: In spite of the implementation of control strategies in honey bee (Apis mellifera) keeping, the invasive parasitic mite Varroa destructor remains one of the main causes of colony losses in numerous countries. Therefore, this parasite represents a serious threat to beekeeping and agro-ecosystems that benefit from the pollination services provided by honey bees. To maintain their stocks, beekeepers have to treat their colonies with acaricides every year. Selecting lineages that are resistant to infestations is deemed to be a more sustainable approach.

Review: Over the last three decades, numerous selection programs have been initiated to improve the host-parasite relationship and to support honey bee survival in the presence of the parasite without the need for acaricide treatments. Although resistance traits have been included in the selection strategy of honey bees, it has not been possible to globally solve the V. destructor problem. In this study, we review the literature on the reasons that have potentially limited the success of such selection programs. We compile the available information to assess the relevance of selected traits and the potential environmental effects that distort trait expression and colony survival. Limitations to the implementation of these traits in the field are also discussed.

Conclusions: Improving our knowledge of the mechanisms underlying resistance to V. destructor to increase trait relevance, optimizing selection programs to reduce environmental effects, and communicating selection outcomes are all crucial to efforts aiming at establishing a balanced relationship between the invasive parasite and its new host.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / genetics*
  • Bees / parasitology
  • Disease Resistance*
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable
  • Selective Breeding*
  • Varroidae / pathogenicity