A beekeeper in the US is breeding honeybees can kill the varroa mite, one of the main reasons why colonies have been dying off around the world, according to a report.
Jeff Berta, who lives on a farm in western Pennsylvania, has a honeybee queen whose appear to be resistant to the mites, according to the NPR radio station.
The queen’s mother was from a colony in Vermont which managed to survive the cold winters there and also outbreaks of disease.
And its father was a drone from bees raised at Purdue University which were found to groom themselves in a unique way.
“The bees will take the mite and they will bite the legs and will chew on the mite,” Mr Berta told NPR.
“And if they bite a leg off of the mite, the mite will bleed to death.
“So the bees are actually fighting back. That's the type of genetic line we're after right now.”
A honeybee with a parasitic varroa mite has been compared to a human infected with a blood-sucking domestic cat.
The queen, known as number 18, is being studied by scientists with funding from the US Department of Agriculture.
Most efforts to save honeybees from the mites have used pesticides designed to kill the latter, while sparing the former, with limited success.
However breeding honeybees with genes that enable them to fight off the mites is not a simple process. Queen 18 was born as a result of artificial insemination. If released into the wild, her descendants could mate with bees that do not have the same grooming technique.
Bee geneticist Christina Grozinger, of Pennsylvania State University, who works with Mr Berta, said: “You can’t produce a stock and say, ‘Now I’m done! And that was it! Now we can sell it everywhere!’
“You have to constantly re-select and constantly have to have people very interested in working as part of this effort.”
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