Project Varroa destructor / Apis cerana interface
Peter Neumann, with PI Vincent Dietemann and Paul Page
(Swiss Bee Research Centre, Agroscope)
With few exceptions, Varroa destructor, an ectoparasitic mite of the Asian honey bee, Apis cerana, has achieved an almost global distribution among colonies of the European honey bee, Apis mellifera. In Europe and the USA, the impact of V. destructor on honey bee health is severe and translates into extensive losses of A. mellifera colonies every year. Varroa destructor impairs the honey bee immune system and weakens colony strength by transmitting viruses. Very little interest has been directed at the interaction of this parasite with its original host, the Asian honey bee, despite knowledge of host specificity and tolerance mechanisms in a coevolved system being central to our understanding of the ability of the parasite to spread beyond its natural range and of the new hosts to adapt to it. Here we aim at filling the gap in our basic knowledge of the host / parasite interaction in its natural range to provide new avenues for the control of the parasite and the improvement of honey bee health.