Development of a 44K SNP assay focussing on the analysis of a varroa-specific defence behaviour in honey bees (Apis mellifera carnica)


Andreas Spötter, Fax:+49-(0)-3303-293840; E-mail:


Honey bees are exposed to a number of damaging pathogens and parasites. The most destructive among them, affecting mainly the brood, is Varroa destructor. A promising approach to prevent its spread is to breed for Varroa-tolerant honey bees. A trait that has been shown to provide significant resistance against the Varroa mite is hygienic behaviour, a behavioural response of honey bee workers to brood diseases in general. This study reports the development of a 44K SNP assay, specifically designed for the analysis of hygienic behaviour of individual worker bees (Apis mellifera carnica) directed against V. destructor. Initially, 70 000 SNPs chosen from a large set of SNPs published by the Honey Bee Genome Project were validated for their suitability in the analysis of the Varroa resistance trait ‘uncapping of Varroa-infested brood’. This was achieved by genotyping of pooled DNA samples of trait bearers and two trait-negative controls using next-generation sequencing. Approximately 36 000 of these validated SNPs and another 8000 SNPs not validated in this study were selected for the construction of a SNP assay. This assay will be employed in following experiments to analyse individualized DNA samples in order to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) involved in the control of the investigated trait and to evaluate and possibly confirm QTL found in other studies. However, this assay is not just suitable to study Varroa tolerance, it is as well applicable to analyse any other trait in honey bees. In addition, because of its high density, this assay provides access into genomic selection with respect to several traits considered in honey bee breeding. It will become publicly available via AROS Applied Biotechnology AS, Aarhus, Denmark, before the end of the year 2011.