Decreased mite reproduction to select Varroa destructor (Acari: Varroidae) resistant honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae): limitations and potential methodological improvements.
The invasive parasitic mite, Varroa destructor (Anderson and Trueman), is the major biotic threat to the survival of European honey bees, Apis mellifera L. To improve colony survival against V. destructor, the selection of resistant lineages against this parasite is considered a sustainable solution. Among selected traits, mite fertility and fecundity, often referred to as suppressed mite reproduction are increasingly used in breeding programmes. However, the current literature leaves some gaps in the assessment of the effectiveness of selecting these traits toward achieving resistance. In the population studied here, we show a low repeatability and reproducibility of mite fertility and fecundity phenotypes, as well as a low correlation of these traits with infestation rates of colonies. Phenotyping reliability could neither be improved by increasing the number of worker brood cells screened, nor by screening drone brood, which is highly attractive for the parasite and available early in the season, theoretically allowing a reduction of generation time and thus an acceleration of genetic progress in selected lineages. Our results provide an evaluation of the potential and limitations of selecting on decreased mite reproduction traits to obtain V. destructor-resistant honeybee colonies. To allow for a more precise implementation of such selection and output reporting, we propose a refined nomenclature by introducing the terms of decreased mite reproduction and reduced mite reproduction, depending on the extent of mite reproduction targeted. We also highlight the importance of ensuring accurate phenotyping ahead of initiating long-lasting selection programmes.