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Hygienic behaviour selection via freeze-killed honey bee brood not associated with chalkbrood resistance in eastern Australia

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posted on 2023-05-26, 02:28 authored by Jody GerdtsJody Gerdts, R Laurie Dewar, Michael Simone Finstrom, Trevor Edwards, Michael AngoveMichael Angove
Hygienic behaviour is a social immune response in honey bees shown to help provide resistance to honey bee pests and diseases. A survey of hygienic behaviour and brood diseases was conducted on 649 colonies in eastern Australia to initiate a selective breeding program targeting disease resistance and provide a level of resistance to Varroa (Varroa destructor Anderson and Trueman and V. jacobsoni Oudemans) mites should they become established in Australia. The test population showed a remarkably high baseline level of hygienic behaviour with 17% of colonies meeting or exceeding breeding selection thresholds. Colonies belonging to a breeding program were 5.8 times more likely to be highly hygienic and colonies headed by queens raised from hygienic queen mothers were 2.2 times more likely. Nectar availability (nectar yielding flowering plants within honey bee forage range) influenced hygienic behaviour expression but was not a significant predictor of level of hygienic behaviour. Surprisingly, hygienic behaviour was not a significant predictor of the presence of infection of the honey bee brood disease chalkbrood (Ascosphaera apis) and was not influential in predicting severity of chalkbrood infection in surveyed honey bee colonies. This study, along with reports from commercial beekeepers that chalkbrood infection is on the rise, warrants a deeper exploration of the host-pathogen relationship between Apis mellifera and Ascosphaera apis in Australia.


This study was funded in part by AgriFutures Australia (grant number PRJ-009904,, the Wheen Bee Foundation (, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (, and Bees Downunder (; author who received funding: JG. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


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© 2018 This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.