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Grooming Behaviour in Apis mellifera Races of Honey Bees

Removal of varroa mites and other parasites of Apis mellifera by physical grooming of one bee by another.

Apis cerana exhibits marked grooming and removal of parasitic mites (notably varroa). Various suggestions about transplanting such a trait, by genetic therapy, have been made, but little is known about the grooming behaviour of Apis mellifera types of bee because it does not seem to occur to a strong degree.

This page has been placed here so that I may record such fragments of information, on this subject, that come my way.

Rather than the drastic genetic intervention envisaged by some, I see no reason for not selecting positively for any grooming that is observed in future, other than that nature has not seen fit to do this selecting in the past. Such indifference by natural selection forces, may be a manifestation of the 'newness' of Varroa destructor rather than indifference.

There may well be some linkage with the mite damaging behavior that is being studied, and bred for, by John Dews and the Cornish group led by James Kilty and Rodger Dewhurst.

Grooming Dance is something I have observed most strongly in Irish Bees and have witnessed varroa being dislodged, but the speed of the mite was too much for the bees that pounced. I presume that the lunging action was intended to bite or catch the mite, but I will only be certain once I have seen such a capture.

Dave Cushman.

Page created 07/12/2001

Page updated 24/12/2022