Russian Honey Bee Queens Resistant to Varroa in Oregon

2000 Annual Report for FW00-034

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2000: $9,125.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:

Russian Honey Bee Queens Resistant to Varroa in Oregon


This project will test the mite resistance of honeybees that have been exposed to Varroa jacobsoni for many decades without the introduction of chemical miticides. The honeybees, from Siberian Russia, were obtained by the USDA research station at Baton, Rouge, La. Research at the station has confirmed that these honeybees have a variety of behavioral and biological patterns that make them resistant to varroa, at least under Louisiana conditions.

Bees are important to Oregon agriculture, creating a demand for maintaining strong, healthy colonies. However, infestations of varroa mites have placed many honeybee colonies in jeopardy and required beekeepers to resort to chemical control. The researchers in this SARE-funded project are comparing mite loads in colonies of pure Russian, Hybrid Russian and Western bees with the goal of finding bees resistant to varroa mites.

Pure Russians are produced by Russian queens mated with Russian drones. Hybrid Russians are Russian queens mated with Western drones. And Westerns are Western queens mated with Western drones.

A statistical analysis showed that colonies with Hybrid Russian queen bees had 27% more mites than colonies with Western Queens, while pure Russian queen colonies had 28% fewer mites than bees in colonies with Western queens.

Following the winter of 2000-01, the pure Russian workers had the lowest mite load. The colonies of Hybrid Russian workers remaining alive had medium mite loads. The Western workers had the highest mite loads.

Russian bees maintain lower mite loads with the use of miticides, important for integrated pest management.

Selecting for populations of bees resistant to varroa mites would allow beekeepers in Oregon and other areas of the West where the mite has infected bee colonies to manage mites using alternatives to chemicals.

Adoption will have to await the final outcome of the project.

Because of the late startup of the pure Russian queens in the spring of 2000 and the resulting losses that winter, the project started without enough pure Russian queens for statistical analysis in 2001. As a result, the project team has set up isolated facilities to raise pure Russian queens where they will be mated by pure Russian drones. That will provide enough pure Russian queens to be raised to produce pure Russian bees for experimentation in the spring of 2002.


A poster explaining the project and summarizing first-year results was presented at the November 2000 conference of the Oregon Beekeepers Association in Hood River, Ore.; in March 2001 at the Lane County Home and Garden Show; and in March 2001 at the Lane County Beekeepers Association Annual Bee School.

An article, “Super Russian queen bees come to summit,” appeared Oct. 5, 2000, in the Corvallis Gazette-Times, and the project was mentioned in an article, “Bees Biz Buzz,” in the March 15 Eugene Weekly. Another article dealing with the project, “OSU Summer Research Project Update,” ran in the July 2000 issue of The Bee Line, the monthly newsletter of the Oregon State Beekeepers Association. A final report will be published in The Bee Line as well as in the newsletter of the Lane County Beekeepers Association. The report will also be submitted to Bee Culture and American Bee Journal.

Three beekeeping operations have been involved in the project.

Katharine Hunt
Clear Hills Honey Co.
130 Hansen Lane
Eugene, OR 97404
(541) 607-0106

Bertie Stringer and Marshall Dunham
Honeystone Candles
P.O. Box 511
Blodgett, OR 97326
(541) 456-2004