Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Three Decades of Selecting Honey Bees that Survive Infestations by the Parasitic Mite Varroa destructor: Outcomes, Limitations and Strategy

Version 1 : Received: 2 March 2020 / Approved: 3 March 2020 / Online: 3 March 2020 (11:53:56 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Journal reference: Genetics Selection Evolution 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s12711-020-00591-1


Despite the implementation of control strategies, the invasive parasitic mite Varroa destructor remains one of the principal causes of honey bee (Apis mellifera) colony losses in numerous countries. For this reason, the parasite represents a serious threat to beekeeping and to agro-ecosystems that benefit from the pollination services provided by honey bees. Numerous selection programmes have been initiated over the last three decades with the aim of promoting the establishment of balance in the host–parasite relationship and, thus, helping European honey bees to survive in the presence of the parasite without the need for acaricide treatments. Such programmes have focused on either selective breeding for putative resistance traits or natural selection. To date, no clear overview of these attempts has been available, which has prevented building on past successes or failures and, therefore, hindered the development of a sustainable strategy for solving the V. destructor problem. In the present study, we review past and current selection strategies, report on their outcomes and discuss their limitations. Based on this state-of-the-art knowledge, we propose a strategy for increasing response to selection and colony survival against V. destructor infestations. Developing in-depth knowledge regarding the selected traits, optimising selection programmes and communicating their outcomes are all crucial to our efforts to establish a balanced relationship between the invasive parasite and its new host.


Apis mellifera; host–parasite relationship; natural selection; resistance; selective breeding; Varroa destructor



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