Helping Honeybees Withstand Mites and Winter
By Dennis Senft
May 23, 1997
A combination of cold weather and infectious mites have decimated
domestic and wild honeybees in recent years. Some commercial beekeepers have
lost half their hives and some wild populations were hit even harder.
Thats not good because the insects pollinate U.S. crops
worth $10 billion annually.
Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service say getting
honeybees to build smaller cells--the six-sided cubbyholes where bees rear
their young and store honey--may help bees survive mite attack.
Into hives, the scientists placed starter cells
smaller than those commercially used. The bees apparently used the small cells
as a blueprint, building smaller than normal architectural units on top of
them. Scientists suspect building the smaller cells puts less stress on bees,
so they can better cope with mite infestations.
In test hives infested with Varroa mites, bees in the small cells
had a 40 percent survival rate compared to zero for those in standard size
A report on the ARS studies appears in the May 1997 issue of
ARS Agricultural Research magazine. The report can also be found
on the World Wide Web at:
Another way scientists could help is by locating hives of wild and
domestic bees that might have natural resistance to Varroa mites. They already
have found bees that have some resistance to tracheal mites. These two mites
are major pests of bees. Mite-resistant honeybees might form the genetic basis
for improved strains.
Scientific contact: Eric H. Erickson, ARS Carl Hayden Bee
Research Laboratory, Tucson, Ariz., http://gears.tucson.ars.ag.gov, phone (520)
670-6481, fax 670-6493, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.