Skip to main content

Parallel evolution of Varroa resistance in honey bees; a common mechanism across continents?

Cite this dataset

Grindrod, Isobel; Martin, Stephen (2021). Parallel evolution of Varroa resistance in honey bees; a common mechanism across continents? [Dataset]. Dryad.


The near-globally distributed ecto-parasitic mite of the Apis mellifera honey bee, Varroa destructor, has formed a lethal association with Deformed wing virus, a once rare and benign RNA virus. In concert the two have killed millions of wild and managed colonies, particularly across the northern hemisphere, forcing the need for regular acaricide application to ensure colony survival. However, despite the short association (in evolutionary terms), A. mellifera populations across the globe have been surviving many years without any mite control methods. This long-term survival, or Varroa resistance, is consistently associated with the same suite of traits, recapping, brood removal and reduced mite reproduction, irrespective of location. Here we conduct an analysis of data extracted from 60 papers to illustrate how these traits connect together to explain decades of mite resistance data. For the first time we have potentially a unified understanding of natural Varroa resistance that will help the global industry achieve widespread miticide free beekeeping and indicate how different honey bee populations across four continents have resolved a recent threat using the same suite of behaviours.


We searched the published literature for data on resistance traits for both susceptible and resistant honey bee colonies. In order to standardise the data, studies had to use natural comb and any infested cells contained only a single foundress mite. For recapping and brood removal data the number of cells examined by the study had to be greater than 50. Equally for mite non-reproduction data the sample sizes had to include at least 50 infested cells. Where possible single colony data was extracted from the studies. All recapping data (n = 163) came from single colonies; for brood removal nine of the 86 data points are colony averages; for mite infertility 75 of the 99 data points are colony averages, due to sample size limitations (see supplementary data for all source data).

Usage notes

This data set contains the individual data points used to create Figures 1b, 1c, 1e and 1h. The data points were extracted from other studies and so the table gives information on the author of the paper, the location in which the study took place and how many honey bee colonies were used to create the data point (all references can be found in the supplementary data).

Tables with the title susceptible brood removal and resistant brood removal include data used to create figure 1b, this data is the percentage of infested brood that a colony or colonies removed within the 10 day time period. EHB = European honey bees.

Tables with the title susceptible recapped and resistant recapped include data used to create figure1c, this data is the percentage of infested cells that had been recapped.

Tables with the title susceptible mite infertility and resistant mite infertility include the data used to create figure 1e, this data is the percentage of female mites that failed to produce viable offspring. * >1 indicates that more than one colony was used but the exact number could not be ascertained from the paper.

Tables with the title AHB 1996-1999 and AHB 2018-2019 include the data used to create figure 1h, this data is the percentage of worker brood infested with Varroa at the time of measuring. AHB = Africanised honey bees. The dates indicate the rough time frame in which the data was collected. * highlights the unpublished data that was kindly provided by Dr Luis Medina, Department of Apiculture, Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan, Mexico from an ongoing study, and allows a direct comparison between this 2019 data and the Cabrera  1998 , Medina & Martin  1999  data that all came from the same honey bee population.