Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Tucson, Arizona » Honey Bee Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #201049

Title: An Easy Dissection Technique for Finding Tracheal Mites (Acari: Tarsonemidae) in Honey Bees

item Sammataro, Diana

Submitted to: International Journal of Acarology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/1/2006
Publication Date: 12/20/2006
Citation: Sammataro, D. An easy dissection technique for finding tracheal mites (Acari: Tarsonemidae) in honey bees. Internat. J. Acarol. 32(4):339-343. 2006.

Interpretive Summary: Because of their small size, mites that dwell in tracheal systems of insects are generally overlooked and the most well-known is the tracheal mite (Acarapis woodi) [Rennie]), a Tarsonemid mite of honey bees, Apis mellifera L. First identified in dying bee colonies on the Isle of Wight in the early 1900s, these mites were a major cause of honey bee mortality in Europe. With this discovery, the importation of honey bees into the United States was banned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1922. Tracheal mites may be the cause of recent bee mortality, therefore, it is important to be able to identify if these mites are present in the bees and at what levels. Because tracheal mites are microscopic, unlike the varroa mites, the visual symptoms of infestation, such as bees crawling on the ground, K-winged bees or empty hives in the spring (called 'disappearing' disease), are either unreliable or could be an indication of other treatable bee diseases. This paper illustrates a quick and easy technique for dissection and detection of tracheal mites. It will be useful as a training tool, along with the video, for those researchers, beekeepers or regulatory personnel who need to test their bees for the mites presence. Beekeepers must not ignore that tracheal mites are still present in some areas and may even be inroduced through bee packages or queens purchased from bee breeders. The presence or absence of thes mites can help determine the cause of unexplained colony losses, especially in the early spring months.

Technical Abstract: The purpose of this paper and video is to demonstrate an easier "tracheal pull" technique that will give an instant yes-or-no answer to the presence/absence of tracheal mites. This is a fast and accurate method that takes the minimum of special instruments and sample preparation. Because the method is difficult to learn without visual aides, I have added photos and atached a video to explain and illustrate this technique.