Russian Bees Pass Key Test, Ready For ResearchBy
Russian honey bees that may be able to resist bee-killing mites have passed
quarantine inspection at Grand Terre Island in Louisiana near the mouth of the
This will allow scientists with the Agricultural
Research Service to begin outdoor experiments to determine if the Russian
bees could become allies of domestic honey bees under attack from varroa and
If the mild-mannered Russian bees prove mite resistant, scientists could
distribute hybrid bees--offspring of Russian queens and American drones--to
beekeepers. The beekeepers could use the hybrids to breed new colonies of
resistant bees and thus put the mites out of business. Naturally resistant honey
bees would be an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical insecticides.
USDA's Animal Health and Plant
Inspection Service lifted a 7-month-long quarantine on Feb. 5. APHIS
inspectors reviewed ARS' evidence showing the Russian bees carry no foreign
pests or diseases and are safe for U.S. citizens and ecosystems.
ARS' exhaustive screening of the bees began shortly after their July 1
arrival at New Orleans International Airport. The scientists immediately
transported the bees to the quarantine facility on Grand Terre Island.
In experiments beginning this spring, scientists will test the bees not only
for mite resistance but also for honey production and other traits beekeepers
American honey bees and their Russian counterparts are the same genus and
species (Apis mellifera). But the Russian honey bees evolved in the
mite-infested region of Primorski in Russia's Far East. Researchers suspect that
the constant mite challenge over time led to nature favoring only the most
Varroa mites invaded the U.S. in 1987. The parasites kill bees and reduce
the supply of colonies available for making honey and for pollinating
flowers--including $8 to $10 billion of crops. Tracheal mites, which pose
similar threats, invade a honey bee's breathing tube.
Scientific contacts: Tom Rinderer and Bob Danka, ARS
Honeybee Breeding, Genetics
and Physiology Laboratory, Baton Rouge, La. Phone (504) 767-9280, fax
(504) 766-9212, email@example.com.