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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Specific Cues Associated With Honey Bee Social Defence against Varroa destructor Infested Brood

Mondet F, Kim SH, deMiranda JR, Beslay D, LeConte Y, Mercer AR


Social immunity forms an essential part of the defence repertoire of social insects. In response to infestation by the parasitic mite Varroa destructor and its associated viruses, honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) have developed a specific behaviour (varroa-sensitive hygiene, or VSH) that helps protect the colony from this parasite. Brood cells heavily infested with mites are uncapped, the brood killed, and the cell contents removed. For this extreme sacrifice to be beneficial to the colony, the targeting of parasitized brood for removal must be accurate and selective. Here we show that varroa-infested brood produce uniquely identifiable cues that could be used by VSH-performing bees to identify with high specificity which brood cells to sacrifice. This selective elimination of mite-infested brood is a disease resistance strategy analogous to programmed cell death, where young bees likely to be highly dysfunctional as adults are sacrificed for the greater good of the colony.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2016, volume: 6, article number: 25444

Authors' information

Mondet, Fanny
National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA)
Kim, Seo Hyun
University of Otago
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Beslay, Dominique
National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA)
Le Conte, Yves
National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA)
Mercer, Alison R.
University of Otago

Associated SLU-program

Future Animal Health and Welfare (until Jan 2017)

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science
Evolutionary Biology

Publication Identifiers


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