Varroa Mite Australia: Breeding Varroa-Resistant Bees


In the relentless battle against the Varroa mite, beekeepers worldwide are exploring various methods to control this destructive pest. One promising avenue gaining attention is the breeding of Varroa-resistant bees. New Zealand has been at the forefront of this effort, employing both classical breeding methods and, more recently, cutting-edge genetic research to enhance resistance. This blog delves into the methods used and the surprising results obtained, with potential implications for beekeepers globally.

Classical Breeding: The Early Efforts

Early attempts to breed Varroa-resistant bees involved classical breeding methods. This labor-intensive process included catching virgin queens and drones, followed by artificial insemination. The goal was to select colonies capable of survival in the presence of Varroa. While these efforts demonstrated the feasibility of selecting resistant colonies, the high cost and suboptimal performance of resulting queens limited their widespread adoption.

The Quest for Genetic Solutions:

In a bid to find more practical solutions, recent research in New Zealand has delved into the genetics of Varroa resistance. Harnessing modern genetic techniques, scientists sought to identify specific genes that confer resistance to Varroa. Initial studies focused on a gene identified in a case trial and laboratory settings, hinting at possible benefits for Varroa control.

Surprising Results:

Queens with two sets of the identified resistance genes were introduced into colonies, and the results were unexpectedly positive. Colonies headed by these queens showed a 30 percent reduction in Varroa levels compared to those without the selected genes. This breakthrough indicates that breeding for resistance at the genetic level could be a game-changer in Varroa control.

Challenges and Future Directions:

While these findings are promising, challenges remain. The study did not control drone mating, potentially diluting the presence of the resistance genes in the worker population. However, this opens up exciting possibilities for future research and practical applications. With advancements in genetics, the prospect of creating bees completely resistant to Varroa may not be far off.

Implications for Beekeepers:

The concept of breeding Varroa-resistant bees has the potential to revolutionize beekeeping practices globally. Australian beekeepers, facing their own challenges with Varroa detection, could find inspiration in these innovative methods. Genetic resistance offers a sustainable, long-term solution that complements other control methods, reducing dependence on synthetic strips and chemicals.


Breeding Varroa-resistant bees represents a significant stride in the ongoing battle against Varroa mites. While it may not provide an immediate solution, the promising results from genetic studies in New Zealand hint at a future where bees can coexist with Varroa without succumbing to its devastating effects. Beekeepers worldwide, including those in Australia, should keep a keen eye on these developments, as genetic resistance may soon become a key tool in their fight for hive health and sustainability.