Prof Thomas D Seeley’s scientific research into the behaviour and social life of honeybees has given the world of beekeeping invaluable impulses for better sustainable practice. Through his groundbreaking work documented in Honeybee Democracy and Following the Wild Bees our understanding of bee behaviour and biology has been greatly enriched. Consequently Thomas Seeley has become the “patron saint” of beekeepers looking for bee-centered and sustainable approaches.

Abstracts for Parallel Sessions

Natural Selection

Of bees possessing naturally selected resistance for varroa mites, the honey bees of the Arnot Forest in New York state (USA) are particularly intriguing.  From swarms captured in this forest, we know that the wild colonies living here have been infested with varroa mites since at least 2003. We also know that the colonies living in this forest persist at the same density today as they did in 1978 (ca. 1 colony/km2), long before the arrival of Varroa destructor.   Furthermore, genetic investigations have revealed that the Arnot Forest bees are neither Africanized bees nor the offspring of the nearest managed colonies, but instead are the descendants of the bees that were living wild in this forest forty years ago.

These genetic analyses have also yielded two insights into the history of the Arnot Forest bees between 1977 and 2011: 1) they experienced a dramatic population decline, and 2) they experienced strong natural selection. I will review the history of study of the Arnot Forest bees and will discuss the results of recent studies that have revealed some of the behavioral mechanisms that natural selection has favored to create immunity to the varroa mite in this population of wild colonies.

Wild Bees, Bees in Trees, Rewilding

The mechanisms of behavioral resistance to varroa mites of the wild honey bee colonies living in the Arnot Forest (USA) I will review the history of natural selection for resistance to varroa mites that the honey bee colonies living in the Arnot Forest experienced over the past 40 years, and I will describe the evidence that these honey bees possess multiple behavioral mechanisms of resistance to these Mites.

Prof Thomas D Seeley

Cornell University

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