A Sustainable Approach to Control Varroa Mites - Improving the Quality of Queens using Local Resources

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2021: $249,998.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2024
Grant Recipient: Central State University
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Hongmei Li-Byarlay
Central State University


  • Animals: bees


  • Crop Production: beekeeping
  • Education and Training: technical assistance, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: genetic resistance
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems

    Proposal abstract:

    Wild feral honeybee colonies are one of the best local resources for improving the genetic diversity of honeybees. It is important to educate bee farmers about queen rearing and utilize local resources for sustainable apiculture instead of importing thousands of packages of bees with pathogens and parasites in the United States. The quality of the queen of a honeybee colony is essential for survival. Based on our data, feral queens tend to live longer than commercial queens. We hypothesized that feral queens may tolerate oxidative stress by living longer.

    By comparing feral stocks with commercial package colonies, the aims listed below will be achieved:

    1) to reveal the quality of flight ability and mating ability, we will compare the flight abilities of virgin queens using flight mills in the lab;

    2) to analyze levels of oxidative stress of queen pupae using physiological assays;

    3) to reveal the difference of the population, we aim to investigate the copy number variation in the genome DNA sequence via new technology with the best accuracy;

    4) to educate bee farmers on queen rearing and grafting, the Central State University Research and Extension programs will provide hands-on workshops and customized classes on queen grafting, genetic diversity, and queen disease;

    5) to work with Purdue University (1862 Land-Grant Institution) and regional queen breeders to select mite biters, and

    6) to train minority students on pollinator health and apicultural research. We will work with beekeepers and queen breeders from eight different states (OH, IN, IL, MI, WI, WV, KY, and PA.) for queen breeding efforts.

    CSU agricultural and natural resources extension will support farmers to use feral bees with high grooming & mite biting behavior. This research and education program provided by an HBCU and 1890 Land-Grant Institution will improve the genetic diversity of honeybees significantly for the North Central Region. By using local resources of feral colonies, we aim to improve environmental quality by reducing the risks of new pathogens and parasites from importing honey bee colonies to Ohio.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our objectives/outcomes are:

    1) test the flight abilities of virgin queens to achieve the outcome of the knowledge in the flight ability;

    2) analyze levels of oxidative stress of queen pupae;

    3) identify new genomic variations for new molecular markers for breeding;

    4) to provide field days and work with regional queen breeders on instrumental inseminations and breeding for mite-resistant/mite-biter stocks;

    5) to organize hands-on workshops and field days for local beekeepers to learn about grafting and queen rearing; and, 

    6) to train under-represented minority students on apiculture, pollinator health, honeybee genetics, and breeding. 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.