Darwinian black box selection for resistance to settled invasive Varroa destructor parasites in honey bees

Tjeerd Blacquière*, Willem Boot, Johan Calis, Arrigo Moro, Peter Neumann, Delphine Panziera

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Established invasive species can pose a continuous threat to biodiversity and food security, thereby calling for sustainable mitigation. There is a consensus that the ubiquitous ecto-parasitic mite Varroa destructor, an invasive species from Asia, is the main biological threat to global apiculture with Apis mellifera. V. destructor has almost completely wiped out wild European honey bee (Apis mellifera) populations. The only remedy for apiculture, to date, is frequent control measures against the mite throughout the season, which prevents possible adaptations. While targeted breeding efforts have, so far, not achieved the selection of tolerant or resistant bees, natural selection approaches have succeeded at least seven times. Here, we propose to take advantage of natural selection for honey bee resistance by stopping mite treatment in managed colonies. The main principles are within population mating of the colonies’ own virgin queens and drones and selection based on survival and proliferous development of colonies. Being used for 10 years, it has shown to result in grosso modo ‘normal’ colonies with a high level of resistance to V. destructor. Here, we call for local groups of beekeepers and scientists to join a novel natural selection program that has started so far on three locations. This will eventually lead to several locally adapted V. destructor resistant honey bee populations around the world, and help global apiculture becoming more sustainable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2519-2528
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number8
Early online date16 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • Apis mellifera
  • Honey bee
  • Host parasite relationship
  • Natural selection
  • Resistance
  • Sustainable apiculture
  • Tolerance
  • Varroa destructor


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