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The search for Varroa tolerance in Irish honey bees

Browne, Keith A.1, NIHBS2, Scott, Dara3, McCormack, Grace P.1 

1 Department of Zoology, School of natural sciences, National University of Ireland, University Road, Galway, Ireland

2 The Native Irish Honey Bee Society, c/o Mr. S. Meade, New Street, Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, Ireland

3 Advance Science, National University of Ireland, University Road,Galway, Ireland

The Apis mellifera mellifera population in Ireland is considered as possibly one of the least genetically introgressed in the world and may contain the last genetically pure individuals. This is due to its geographical location, the low concentration of managed apiaries and a beekeeping community that generally resists the importation of honey bees. As a consequence, protection from Varroa destructor is extremely important, however Varroa was identified in the country in 1998 and is now distributed almost nationwide,. 

The National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) in collaboration with the Native Irish Honey Bee Society (NIHBS) have initiated a breeding programme to increase the prevalence of colonies that are tolerant of Varroa. Preliminary data suggests that some colonies are naturally tolerant and/or have very low infestation rates. The aim is also to investigate the genetic and environmental factors that lie behind the ability of some native Irish honey bees to tolerate Varroa and resist diseases. The underlying premise is that phenotype and general colony health may not only be consequential on genotype but may also stem from the quality and variety of honey bee forage. 

Keith Browne

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