Welcome, you scanned the QR code on the information panel at one of the Arista hives or one of the Arista honey jars. On this page you can read more about what the Arista sponsor hive project entails. You can also find out more about our program browsing through this website of Arista Bee Research.

Bee colony in action

A bee colony consists of one queen, tens of thousands of workers (♀) and a few thousand drones (♂). The queen’s main task is to lay eggs and she is at the basis of the survival of the colony. The workers live up to their name; they have a range of tasks including caring for the brood, building the combs, caring for the queen, guarding the entrance and even feeding the drones. They collect nectar, pollen and resin and process this into honey, wax, nutrition for the brood and propolis.

Honeybees, in fact the workers, are important pollinators for the production of 2/3 of our food crops. It is for this reason that there is a lot of attention for the increased bee mortality of the last 40 years.

The drones have only one task … taking part in the fight of natural mating of a queen of another colony.

The Varroa mite… the destructive enemy of the honeybee

Bee mortality is mainly caused by infection with the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. This mite reproduces in the brood of bees. Not only do they feed on the pupae, causing them to weaken during their development to bee, but they also transmit a large number of pathogenic viruses and bacteria.

Bee colonies are chemically treated several times a year; without treatment against the mite, the bee colonies die within 3 years. But even with the chemical treatment, 10-40% of the bee colonies die annually from the mite infestation.

These chemicals can leave toxic residues in the wax and honey. The Varroa mite develops a resistance to all effective chemical pesticides on the market and no new pesticides have yet been developed. In addition, the bees weaken due to the pesticides and acids used in the hives.

Chemical treatments offer only a temporary solution.

The natural solution is in the bees themselves!

A small part of the Western honeybee has demonstrated genetic behavioral traits against the Varroa mite: workers can remove the infected pupae from the brood, even before the mite has a chance to reproduce. This behavior is called VSH : Varroa Sensitive Hygiene.

The schematic representation on the right shows the various stages in the development of the bees. On the left you can see that in a non-resistant colony the Varroa mite can multiply and walk into the colony on a hatching bee. On the right, in a colony with the VSH behavior, the Varroa mite is ‘detected’ and removed by the worker.

How can we reinforce this behavior?

Varroa resistance has now been successfully selected by using queens that are inseminated with semen of one drone to start the selection process. By selecting the most resistant colonies of such queens (without genetic manipulation; it is selection of already present natural behavior) the honeybees can become completely resistant within 5-6 generations. In the second phase of the selection, when the varroa resistance level is high enough, the selection uses insemination again, now with multiple drones and natural mating. In this second phase, emphasis is also placed on the other important properties such as good honey production and gentleness.

Together with beekeepers …

Arista Bee Research has developed a VSH breeding and selection program, which is now the basis for a program that is being rolled out in the USA and in nine countries of Europe.

A participating breeder/beekeeper starts with his own, initially low-resistant, bee colonies. Through the described Arista methods, resistance increases every year, in small steps.

The this way obtained fully resistant colony is the basis for further distribution to other beekeepers (via mating stations, inseminations, etc.). The total selection program consists of a large number of repeating “mini-programs” so that ultimately there is a broad biodiversity in the total population for the existing breeds and subspecies (i.e. Buckfast, Carnica, Black Bee).

… and the adoption of Arista hives

To guide the growing number of participating beekeepers and countries, financial resources are needed for project leaders, workspaces, beehives and equipment. By adopting a specially equipped Arista hive, companies, individuals and institutions can participate in and contribute to the breeding program.

Sponsor a special hive – how does it work?

Province of North Brabant
  • The Arista hive with Varroa resistant queen is placed on the sponsor’s property.
  • This can be a hive in the Arista colors or in the colors of your own company or institution.
  • The hive is fully maintained by Arista & partners.
  • The hive is checked for the degree of Varroa infestation, honey production etc. The sponsor can follow the cabinet on an internet dashboard with updates on how the cabinet is doing. This includes sensors that measure the weight (honey flow and use), the number of outgoing and incoming bees and the temperature in the brood.
Number of bees going in and out of the hive can be tracked online.
  • The best queens are used in the program for the breeding of the next generation.
  • The drones from this hive will spread the Varroa resistant behavior in the vicinity of the hive through natural mating.
  • The sponsor amount for an Arista hive is € 5000 per year. About a third of this amount is used for the Arista hive, the queen, the bees and maintenance. The largest part is used for the implementation of the breeding program and applied research (project leaders, support for beekeepers in implementation and education of the program, housing the Foundation).
  • The sponsor receives 50 jars of honey (250 gr) with its own label (logo) as a promotional gift.
  • Arista places the sponsor’s name/logo on its website. The sponsor can report participation in the project on their own website.
  • Sponsorship is tax deductible for companies.

Help spread Varroa resistance!

This helps the honeybees to a healthy and sustainable future.

For more information about our breeding program and the adoption of Arista hives:

BartJan Fernhout

+31 (0) 6 508 166 09 bartjan.fernhout@aristabeeresearch.org