What bee-killing mites can teach us about parasite evolution

July 6, 2015

From: Phys.org

An infestation of speck-sized Varroa destructor mites can wipe out an entire colony of honey bees in 2-3 years if left untreated. Pesticides help beekeepers rid their hives of these parasitic arthropods, which feed on the blood-like liquid inside of their hosts and lay their eggs on larvae, but mite populations become resistant to the chemicals over time.

While exploring plant-based alternatives to control Varroa , Chinese bioagricultural and Japanese cell physiological labs saw that certain tick repellents repress mites from finding their honey bee hosts. In a paper published on July 2 in Cell Reports, they describe how the repellents activate a sensory protein (the transient receptor potential or TRP channel) found on the mites’ front legs. That a single protein could influence something so important for mite survival is evidence that the protein may have helped the mites adapt as parasites in the hive environment.

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