Honey Bees

Last changed: 17 October 2017

The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is by far the most important insect pollinator. It is estimated that one third of the human diet is directly or indirectly dependent on insect pollination. Pollination is important both to agriculture and horticulture and the wider ecological role of honey bees is clearly enormous.Our purpose at SLU is to keep honey bees healthy!

We study honey bee pathology and focus on disease epidemiology and host-parasite co-adaptations in honey bees using the concepts provided by evolutionary epidemiology. Our aim is better understanding of honey bee epidemiology leading to integrated management of honey bees and their pathogens and ultimately to healthy honey bees.

Honey bees are multi-level adaptive units. In order to increase fitness, honey bee pathogens must be successful not only within an individual bee or within a bee colony, they must also effectively spread between colonies. Horizontal transmission and vertical transmission of disease in honey bees can occur both at the individual and at the colony level. Modes and rates of pathogen transmission within and between colonies is fundamental for understanding honey bee epidemiology.


Our further research interest extends to:
1. Understanding if apiculture alters host-parasite interactions; and 2. To what extent apiculture alters disease transmission routes and the evolution of virulence in pathogens of the honey bees.  

Our Recent Scientific Achievments

  • Introduction and acceptance of evolutionary epidemiology    concepts in honey bee epidemiology (demos=people, zoo=animals: same theory
  • Reclassification and species descriptions of honey bee  pathogens
  • Characterization of host-parasite co-adaptations in the  honey bees
  • Quantification of horizontal and vertical transmission routes of viral and bacterial disease agents
  • Demonstration of venereal disease transmission in honey bees
  • Demonstration of growth inhibition of honey bee pathogens from honey bee specific probiotic bacteria


We diagnose honey bee pathogens as a service for Swedish beekeepers commissioned by The Board of Agriculture (Jordbruksverket). This includes diagnosis of samples of adult bees, brood, and debris sent to us from Swedish bee inspectors. The diagnostic service targets several microorganisms as well as internal and external parasites that cause disease in honey bee colonies.

We provide expert advice and monitor bee disease all over the country in order to maintain productive, healthy honey bees in Sweden.

Notifiable honey bee diseases in Sweden

The Swedish legislation includes five notifiable honey bee diseases:

  • American foulbrood caused by the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae
  • Varroa mite infestation (Varroa destructor)
  • Tracheal mite infestation (Acarapis woodi)
  • Tropilaelaps spp. mite infestation
  • Small hive beetle infestation (Aethina tumida)