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What is a Varroa Mite?

The Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) is an ectoparasite of the honey bee Apis mellifera L. Varroa is the most serious pest of honey bees inflicting more damage and higher economic costs than all other apicultural diseases. Varroa is an invasive species that originated in Asia where the Asian honey bee, Apis cerana Fabr. was the host. The mite does little harm to A. cerana colonies and maintains a stable host-parasite relationship largely because mite reproduction occurs in drone brood, that comprises <5% of the colony’s brood population. When mites attempt to infest worker brood cells, the parasitized pupa and mites are removed by adult bees exhibiting “hygienic behavior”. Adult bees also remove and kill mites on nestmates (“grooming behavior”). In the 1950s, Varroa shifted hosts from A. cerana to the European honey bee (Apis mellifera L.). In A. mellifera, Varroa parasitizes and reproduces in worker and drone brood. Adult workers and drones also can be parasitized, but Varroa are seldom found on queens.

This is a brief overview of Varroa mite biology. For more complete information, click here.