Can supplementary pollen feeding reduce varroa mite and virus levels and improve honey bee colony survival?

Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, Vanessa Corby-Harris, Yanping Chen, Henry Graham, Mona Chambers, Emily Watkins deJong, Nicholas Ziolkowski, Yun Kang, Stephanie Gage, Megan Deeter, Michael Simone-Finstrom, Lilia de Guzman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Varroa destructor is an ectoparasitic mite of immature and adult honey bees that can transmit several single-stranded RNA viruses to its host. Varroa reproduce in brood cells, and mite populations increase as colonies produce brood in spring and summer. Mite numbers also can sharply rise, particularly in the fall, by the migration of varroa into hives on foragers. Colonies with high levels of varroa and viruses often die over the winter. Feeding colonies pollen might keep virus levels low and improve survival because of the positive effects of pollen on immunity and colony growth. We compared varroa and virus levels and overwinter survival in colonies with (fed) and without (unfed) supplemental pollen. We also measured the frequency of capturing foragers with mites (FWM) at colony entrances to determine its relationship to varroa and virus levels. Colonies fed supplemental pollen were larger than unfed colonies and survived longer. Varroa populations and levels of Deformed wing virus (DWV) rose throughout the season, and were similar between fed and unfed colonies. The growth of varroa populations was correlated with FWM in fed and unfed colonies, and significantly affected DWV levels. Increasing frequencies of FWM and the effects on varroa populations might reduce the positive influence of supplemental pollen on immune function. However, pollen feeding can stimulate colony growth and this can improve colony survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-473
Number of pages19
JournalExperimental and Applied Acarology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Overwinter survival
  • Resistance
  • Tolerance
  • Varroa migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science


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