As in most of the world the Varroa mite Varroa destructor is the major problem for Israeli apiculture. It was reported in Israel in mid-eighties of the last century and since then treatments by synthetic chemical insecticides were widely implemented. However the efficacy of those proved to be temporal, making it clear that the approach needs to change towards integrated Varroa management with Varroa resistance as one of the major component in this strategy.
The aim of the present research is to evaluate locally bred bees in Israel for frequency of hygienic behavior, its impact on the Varroa mite infestation and the heritability of this trait. The bees bred in our apiary are basically Apis mellifera ligustica, but other honey bee strains were sporadically introduced in the past to improve honey productivity.
We have started this research about three years ago by screening colonies with freely mated queens for hygienic behavior using the “pin test”. In parallel we assessed the tested colonies for colony strength, health and honey production. After the first year we selected colonies that represented two extremes: most hygienic and least hygienic, and screened the second generation using for the above traits. In this generation we also tested seasonal changes in Varroa infestation. The results show that the daughter colonies are similar in their hygienic behavior to their mother, while no effect on honey production was found. Furthermore, significant negative correlation was found between Varroa infestation and the level of hygienic behavior. These results are promising and suggest heritability of hygienic behavior in local populations. We pursue our selection studies by implementing artificial insemination.