Using citizen science to scout honey bee colonies that naturally survive varroa destructor infestations

Arrigo Moro*, Alexis Beaurepaire, Raffaele Dall’olio, Steve Rogenstein, Tjeerd Blacquière, Bjørn Dahle, Joachim R. de Miranda, Vincent Dietemann, Barbara Locke, Rosa María Licón Luna, Yves Le Conte, Peter Neumann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Citizen Science contributes significantly to the conservation of biodiversity, but its application to honey bee research has remained minimal. Even though certain European honey bee (Apis mellifera) populations are known to naturally survive Varroa destructor infestations, it is unclear how widespread or common such populations are. Such colonies are highly valuable for investigating the mechanisms enabling colony survival, as well as for tracking the conservation status of free-living honey bees. Here, we use targeted Citizen Science to identify potentially new cases of managed or free-living A. mellifera populations that survive V. destructor without mite control strategies. In 2018, a survey containing 20 questions was developed, translated into 13 languages, and promoted at beekeeping conferences and online. After three years, 305 reports were collected from 28 countries: 241 from managed colonies and 64 from free-living colonies. The collected data suggest that there could be twice as many naturally surviving colonies worldwide than are currently known. Further, online and personal promotion seem to be key for successful recruitment of participants. Although the survivor status of these colonies still needs to be confirmed, the volume of reports and responses already illustrate how effectively Citizen Science can contribute to bee research by massively increasing generated data, broadening opportunities for comparative research, and fostering collaboration between scientists, beekeepers, and citizens. The success of this survey spurred the development of a more advanced Citizen Science platform, Honey Bee Watch, that will enable a more accurate report-ing, confirmation, and monitoring of surviving colonies, and strengthen the ties between science, stakeholders, and citizens to foster the protection of both free-living and managed honey bees.

Original languageEnglish
Article number536
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2021


  • Citizen Science
  • Honey bee
  • Honey Bee Watch
  • Monitoring
  • Natural selection
  • Varroa destructor


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