Varroa Sensitive Hygiene
Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) is a behaviour shown by some honeybees. They uncap cells containing reproductive varroa mites and interrupt their breeding cycle. Bees with high levels of the VSH behaviour can require less treatment for varroa than normal.
In 2011/12 Betta Bees established a Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) breeding programme. We purchased semen from three colonies that had high levels for the VSH trait and used it to inseminate queens raised from our top breeders. We have 25 to 30 hives in this programme and each year we undertake a VSH assay to determine the level of VSH behaviour for each hive. The hives exhibiting the highest levels of VSH behaviour are then selected and bred from, for the next years VSH evaluation hives. In this way, over time, we will increase the level of this behaviour.
The goal is to have a line of honeybees with high levels of this behaviour that we can use to introduce the trait to other lines of bees. This will allow us to quickly establish the trait in our main breeding line while maintaining the gains we have made in other areas.
The VSH trait is very difficult and time consuming to assess. We have found that the methodology in the literature does not always translate well to our commercial breeding environment. We have had to undertake a lot of development in methodologies to perfect the assay.
We are very grateful for the support of the Honey Industry Trust whose funding has help us establish the VSH programme.