Biting Back

October 23, 2015

From: On Earth

Backyard breeders are creating a new kind of hero honeybee—one that chomps off the legs of mites and saves the hive.


A varroa mite on the head of a bee nymph

While the sight of a body missing one or more legs may cause most people to shudder, nothing makes Dan O’Hanlon happier—especially when the body belongs to a varroa mite. The tiny bloodsucking parasite has been terrorizing his beehives in West Virginia—and many others across the country—for decades. So when he finds the sticky board he’s placed inside his hives littered with the amputees, it’s proof the experiment he’s been participating in is working.

O’Hanlon is the leader of the Heartland Honey Breeders Cooperative, a group of queen-honeybee breeders from eight states stretching from Michigan to Tennessee. The co-op has teamed up with scientists to breed bees that are able to fight off mites—a good idea since the parasites are developing resistance to pesticides.

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