How do Varroa Mites Know when to Leave Honey Bee Hives? It’s all in the Bees’ Wax

September 4, 2014

From: Entomology Today


Although they are really tiny, the Varroa mite has the potential to bring large parts of western agriculture to its knees by infesting and destroying honey bee hives. Varroa mites are the “single most detrimental pest of honey bees,” according to the USDA National Honey Bee Health Stakeholder Conference Steering Committee. In addition to attaching to and feeding on the bees, Varroa mites can spread harmful viruses and reduce bee immunity.

The mites usually prefer to feed on bees that care for the youngsters in a hive because it gives them the opportunity to parasitize the honey bee larvae. However, these nurse bees generally stay within the hive, so the mites need to hitch rides on other bees in order to infect other hives.

So how do the mites know when to stay and when to go? After bringing a hive to the verge of collapse, the mites are confronted with a dilemma: stay put and perish, or get ready to infest another pristine hive.

Researchers in Italy think they have an answer to this question, and the results of their study are published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

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