Honey Bees’ African Ancestors May Hold Cure for Biting Mite Plague

June 24, 2015

From: LiveScience

Jessica Arriens, U.S. National Science Foundation

Jessica Arriens, a public affairs specialist for the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), contributed this article to Live Science’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

The honey bearers arrived in the early 17th century, carried into the United States by early European settlers. Apis mellifera, a name that truly translates as “bee honey-bearer” — though they are better known as honey bees.


In 2010, a team of researchers from Penn State and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Kenya discovered the deadly Varroa mite was present on Kenyan bees. A tiny red beast that attaches, shield-like, to the back of a bee, Varroa feeds on bee hemolymph (bee blood). The blood-sucking in itself is akin to a (rather large) tick bite on a human, but the process can transmit diseases and wreak havoc with a bee’s immune system. The parasite’s full name — Varroa destructor — is apt; it is the culprit for many bee deaths in North America and Europe. [Getting the Buzz on Bees]

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