story to find out more.
An adult Varroa
mite feeds on a developing bee. The mite is the brown oval near the rear of the
bee's abdomen. Click the image for more information about it.
Special Line of Bees "Sniffs Out" Its Worst
Enemy By Erin
Peabody October 13, 2005
It turns out that a good protection against home invaders may be
impeccable hygieneat least for honey bees, according to
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
entomologists who are studying bee colonies' defenses against varroa mites.
Blood-sucking, hive-wrecking varroa mites are currently the bee
industry's most serious threat. These tiny but potent parasites have destroyed
up to 70 percent of hives in some parts of the United States, threatening the
insects that help pollinate $15 billion worth of nuts, fruits and vegetables
In their search for a more lasting, nonchemical solution to the
mounting mite problem, ARS bee researchers
Harris discovered a special group of bees that rely on natural instincts to
knock down a colony's mite population.
At first, the two dubbed their genetically superior bees "SMR" bees
because the insects appeared to "suppress mite reproduction." The scientists
suspected that the bees were transmitting chemical cues that somehow confused
the ready-to-reproduce female parasites.
But with further investigation, Harbo and Harris have found that their
SMR bees aren't meddling with mite reproduction after all. Instead, the bees
are simply exceptional housekeepers.
The bees seem to be able to sniff out and find young, developing
varroa mites. After homing in on a young mite family situated snugly inside a
pocket of honeycomb, the bees initiate their fastidious cleaning. They chew
away at the waxy cap of the incubator-like chamber, exposing the minute
parasites' numerous vulnerabilities.
Over time, with their highly attuned, hygienic impulses, the bees are
able to have a significant impact on the overall number of mites infesting a
Harbo and Harris, who work at ARS'
Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Research Unit in Baton Rouge, La.,
have made their unique varroa-detecting honey bees available to
Glenn Apiaries, a bee supplier
in Fallbrook, Calif.
about the research in the October issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief in-house scientific research agency.