ABS 2022
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The Role of Social Immunity in Feral Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) against Parasitic Mites (Varroa destructor).
Brandon Mukogawa, James C. Nieh. University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA, United States

Varroa destructor threatens managed and feral Apis mellifera colonies worldwide. Some studies suggest feral colonies may have increased resistance to V. destructor from increased immunocompetence and frequent swarming that disrupts mite reproductive cycles. Additionally, Africanized colonies have also been shown to demonstrate increased hygienic behavior by removing more dead/infected brood and grooming more intensely, making them potentially more Varroa resistant. This study aims to test whether there are differences in hygienic behavior between feral and managed A. mellifera throughout the year. We wish to understand whether increased hygienic behavior allows feral colonies to survive with Varroa without anti-mite treatments. Interestingly, there are few observed differences between the autogrooming behavior of managed and feral colonies. And similarly, there are no differences in their mite biting behavior. However, there is a common trend of honey bees biting off specific mite legs (forelegs) more than other legs—which may be a strategy to reduce mite infestations. These findings may help us understand how feral A. mellifera colonies combat V. destructor infestations.