Suitability of drone olfactory sensitivity as a selection trait for Varroa-resistance in honeybees

Sci Rep. 2021 Sep 6;11(1):17703. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-97191-w.

Abstract

The most effective strategy against brood diseases, such as those stemming from infestation by the mite Varroa destructor, is the early detection and removal of sick brood. Recent findings suggest that genes associated with worker bee olfactory perception play a central role in Varroa-sensitive hygiene (VSH). In this study, the odour sensitivity of Apis mellifera drones was examined through proboscis extension response (PER) conditioning. Individuals sensitive/insensitive to the two Varroa-parasitised-brood odours (extract-low and extract-high) were used for breeding. Twenty-one queens from a VSH-selected line (SelQ) and nineteen queens from a nonselected line (ConQ) were single-drone-inseminated with sperm from drones that showed either sensitivity (SenD+) or insensitivity (SenD-) to the two extracts. Individual VSH behaviour in a total of 5072 offspring of these combinations (SelQ × SenD+, SelQ × SenD-, ConQ × SenD+, ConQ × SenD-) was subsequently observed in a specially designed observation unit with infrared light. The results from the video observation were also separately examined, considering the genetic origin (VSH-selected or nonselected line) of the participating queens and drones. While the drone PER conditioning results were not significantly reflected in the VSH results of the respective offspring, the genetic origin of the participating queens/drones was crucial for VSH manifestation.