The queen producers of the Heartland Honey Bee Breeders Cooperative, the ones who brought you the ankle-biter queens, have found a line of bees with an exciting NEW mite-fighting trait. Someone several decades ago noticed that a line of Redline Italians were chewing the wood inside their hives. We have tracked down that line and have found a breeder who has been selecting breeder queens from this line since 2005, which came from the hives with the lowest mite counts every year. He also looked to see how many chewed mite bodies he could find in the dropped mites.
We call them MITE MAULERS because they don’t chew the legs of mites like the ankle-biters do. They chew the BODIES! It takes incredibly strong mandibles to do this and these bees really have them. What a joy it is to see torn, shredded mites under the microscope.
We have been evaluating them against the ankle biters and a control group of bees for two years now under a SARE Grant. And the are out-biting even the ankle biters. This year most of us saw between 85-100% chewed mites in our 24-hour drops from the Mite Mauler Italian Redline bees. And very low mite counts in the Mite Mauler hives. Next year we will be inseminating ankle biter virgins with semen from the drones of the lowest mite count Mite Mauler hives.
Several of you noticed that some of the queens you bought from me this year had a yellow color. Now you know why: you actually got some of the Mite Mauler genetics from my queens being open mated.
This makes the 5th mite-fighting genetics I have gotten into my Mountain Queens. We started with Minnesota Hygienic queens to build the ankle biters. Then I introduced VSH bees from Drs. Harbo and Harris along with VP Queen VSH genetics. We added New World Carniolan genetics for grooming behavior. And Palmer and Canadian Buckfast for northern overwintering qualities. Now we have begun working Mite Mauler genes into the mix and have been very pleased with the results from our comparative mite drop counts this year.
Hang on because hope is on the way!
INFORMATION ABOUT THE PURDUE ANKLE BITER QUEENS!!!
Grooming behavior in bees was one of the mite-fighting qualities we were all excited to find years ago. It led to screened bottom boards where some 20% of the mites groomed off of a bee fell through the screen and onto the ground never to be seen again. That was a good thing. Along with SMR and VSH, it added something to the toolbox for natural mite fighting genetics from the bees themselves. That said, watch this video for what happens to the mites in that OTHER 80% of the time.
As you saw, the mite was groomed off the first bee. But then it just grabbed back onto that same bee again. When she groomed it off a second time, it jumped back on yet another worker bee which happened to walk over it. This wastes a lot of energy!
So the Heartland Honey Bee Breeders Cooperative partnered with Dr. Greg Hunt and Krispn Given at Purdue University to create a bee with genetic which included chewing the legs off of mites. Since varroa mites can’t coagulate. a chewed mite is a dead mite. If you want to see the difference an ankle biter bee makes, watch this!
Here the ankle biter grabs the mite off the tool and immediately starts to chew on it. Eventually she flew off with the chewed mite and dropped it OUTSIDE the hive.
Here are the links to several articles describing the efforts to get this genetic trait into our best lines of bees.
Bee Culture Article
Dr. Greg Hunt Article
Lafayette Journal story about Annual HHBBC Insemination event at Purdue University
Here’s a wonderful cartoon of Dr. Greg Hunt and Krispn Given
Last but not least, Tim Ives, an Indiana queen producer who has been a part of this project, took this awesome video of a bee taking on a small hive beetle.
Ankle biter bee takes on Small hive beetle!