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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bee Colony Collapse Disorder: New Bait Lures Varroa Mite To Its Doom

The light-colored developing honey bee has a parasitic varroa mite attached to it.
source of image:

ScienceDaily (July 5, 2009) — "Varroa mites could literally be walking into a trap—thanks to a new attractant developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Gainesville, Fla.

The 1/16-inch long parasite, Varroa destructor, is a top pest of honey bees nationwide, hindering the beneficial insects' ability to pollinate almonds, blueberries, apples, zucchini and many other flowering crops.

At the ARS Chemistry Research Unit in Gainesville, research leader Peter Teal and colleagues are testing a bait-and-kill approach using sticky boards and natural chemical attractants called semiochemicals.

In nature, Varroa mites rely on these semiochemicals to locate—and then feed on—the bloodlike hemolymph of both adult honey bees and their brood. Severe infestations can decimate an affected hive within several months—and rob the beekeeper of profits from honey or pollinating services. But in this case, the mites encounter a more heady bouquet of honey bee odors that lure the parasites away from their intended hosts and onto the sticky boards, where they starve.

In preliminary tests, 35 to 50 percent of mites dropped off the bees when exposed to the attractants. Free-roving mites found the semiochemicals even more attractive, according to Teal.

Moreover, the extra dose of semiochemicals wafting through hives didn't appear to significantly interfere with the honey bees' normal behavior or activity, added Teal who, along with postdoctoral associate Adrian Duehl and University of Florida collaborator Mark Carroll, reported the results this past January at the 2009 North American Beekeeping Conference in Reno, Nev.

The team hopes ARS' patenting of the Varroa mite attractants will encourage an industrial partner to develop the technology further."


"The Varroa mite (Varroa Jacobsoni), is an external parasite of honeybees. It feeds on the hemolymph of both brood and adult bees (Hemolymph or haemolymph is the blood analogue used by all arthropods and most mollusks that have an open circulatory system.). The entire life cycle of these mites is spent with the bees. The Varroa Mite originated in Southeast Asia where it is a parasite of the Eastern honeybee, Apis cerana. It was first discovered on the Western honeybee, Apis mellifera, in 1960. The crossover resulted from beekeepers intermingling the two species, and further spread has been encouraged by beekeepers transporting colonies. This mite is now found on every continent except Australia.

In the late 1980s, isolated cases appeared along the U.S. border in New Brunswick and Manitoba. By 1992 in Manitoba and 1993 in New Brunswick, Varroa seemed to have become established in a few operations and were later (1993) found in Alberta among some colonies that had been overwintered in southern British Columbia. Other Alberta finds in 1994 occurred in bee yards containing colonies that had overwintered in British Columbia areas distant from the U.S. border. By 1995, more general finds were recorded from a few bee operations in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. Most beekeepers in Canada, however, still remain unaffected by those mites.

During the last few decades, the number of maintained honey bee colonies in the United States plummeted, largely as a consequence of the combined effect of tracheal and Varroa mite infestations. Between 1945 and 1990, the number of managed colonies dropped to about one-half of its former level. However, that circumstance does not represent the true level of devastation to agriculture. From all indications, feral bee colonies have effectively disappeared in all areas of Varroa mite infestation.

The influx of tracheal and Varroa mites (particularly the latter), however, poses problems far greater than any faced before. From all indications, it is possible to breed strains of tracheal mite-resistant bees and can do so ever better as we gain greater understanding of the interaction of those parasites with their bee hosts. Varroa mites, by contrast, feed on the blood of larvae, pupae and adults and can reproduce astonishingly fast; faster, that is, than the rate at which bee colonies can replace their losses.
Can one breed a Varroa resistant bee? The major problem here stems from the fact that virtually all our bee strains are actually quite highly interbred. That is, when queens mate in midair with nearly a score of drones of different genetic makeup, the resultant colony has a host of different characteristics. Perhaps some small percentage of the bees in a colony have a hygienic behavior suitable for ridding the colony of Varroa mites. Finding and isolating any such useful feature remains a formidable task under the circumstances.


A ten-minute video about Life Cycle of the Honeybee and Varroa mite can be watched at:

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.