Honey Bee Worker vs. Varroa Mite

The holidays are over and it’s time for us to gear up for another round of sampling that will most likely begin the last full week in January. Holding yards are popping up all over Butte County and the weather has been much more enjoyable then I am used to. The bees seem to be enjoying it as well. Last week it was dry and in the upper 50’s during the day, lending an opportunity for them to forage and clean house before being moved into almonds February 1st. It also gave us another opportunity to go through our roof-top hive. The hive is hanging in there with 3 solid frames of bees, brood, and pollen coming in…

I have uploaded a video that shows some of the Varroa mite damage Rob and I found in the hive on the roof of our Oroville office. It starts with a shot of a worker that’s been badly crippled by deformed wing virus. There is also a shot of a bee with a mite dug in to its thorax. The most interesting part of the video starts about 13 seconds in when a worker is spotted wrestling with a Varroa mite (the best shots of the mite on the bee start at 54 seconds). The mite has not dug itself in yet and is desperately trying to feed. At first glance the bee appeared to be performing the waggle dance but after watching it for a while it was realized that it wasn’t trying to relay information about a potential forage site but was instead trying to shake off a mite.

I apologize in advance for my cinematography but if you can stick with the video for a while (without getting motion sickness) there are some cool behaviors to be observed. It is an excellent example of how a mite can affect a bee before it’s even fed on it. Imagine the moral of the bees in the hive once mite levels get so high that wrestling matches like the one shown in the video start breaking out all over the place…

Written By: Michael Andree

Michael Andree has written 43 post in this blog.

Based out of the Butte County Cooperative Extension in Oroville, CA I am a member of the “Bee Team” created by the Bee Informed Partnership as a tool to help bridge the gap between scientists and beekeepers. The team works directly with bee breeders in the field and has been coined as those with their “boots on the ground”. We assemble field and lab data through hive inspections, surveys, and sample collection. The data and samples we accumulate are processed by the Bee Research Lab in Beltsville, MD where reports for beekeepers are generated. Our most essential duty is to report results to beekeepers empowering them to make more informed management decisions.