Viruses Spread Varroa Mites Can Destroy a Bee Colony
Article by Thomas
Named after a Roman scholar and beekeeper, Marcus Terentius Varro, the Varroa mite is a parasitic mite first found in Southeast Asia at the beginning of the twentieth century. They have now spread to all continents but Australia. There are two types of Varroa mites, the destructor and the Jacobsoni, and both are large enough to be seen by the naked eye. They will appear as a tiny red or brown spot on the thorax of the bee.The mites feed on the bodily fluids of honey bees in their adult, pupal and larval stages and are a danger to them because they can carry viruses that are harmful to the bees. These viruses, such as the deformed wing virus and the Israel acute paralysis virus can result in deformed wings or cause colony collapse disorder. For no known reason, the viruses will cause the worker bees to suddenly disappear. Deformed wings will leave the bees unable to leave the hive to forage and may lead to the starvation of the colony. Another virus caused by the mites is the Kakugo virus, which attacks the violent guard honeybees and can cause them to become more aggressive just before the collapse of the colony.
Infection by the Varroa mites can eliminate wild bee colonies as well as apiary bee colonies. During the hive’s preparation for winter or if there is poor late summer forage, the mites can take over the bees and destroy the hive. Suddenly the colony will disappear, leaving none behind. Fortunately, some wild bee colonies seem to be recovering and it is thought that they are forming a natural resistance to the Varroa mites.The Varroa destructor mite has been called the world’s most devastating pest for Western honey bees, as most of the damage to colonies is due to them. The Varroa jacobsoni has been found not to be as harmful. Female Varroa mites are more destructive than the males. Their anatomy is well-adapted, as they have a flattened shape allowing them to fit in the abdominal segments, with claws allowing them to grasp the bee and remain attached.
Some chemical treatments are available to control the mites, such as fluvalinate, coumaphos, thymol, sucrose octanoate esters, oxalic acid and formic acid. The United States Department of Environmental Protection has advised that these chemicals must be used only as directed and then they will be effective against the mites while not harming the bees. However, they should not be used during honey production.
Mechanical controls can eliminate some mites in order to keep the infestation level down enough so as not to harm the bee colony. These can be dusting the hive with powdered sugar, so the bees will clean themselves and dislodge the mites, or using sticky screens under the nest to trap falling mites. Sticky screens are simply pieces of cardboard coated in a sticky substance and covered with wire mesh. The Varroa mites will fall through the mesh and get stuck on the sticky cardboard. Many beekeepers are trying the holistic approach to eliminate the mites rather than relying on pesticides and find that it is not only better but more economical.
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Thomas from beekeepingstarter.com submitted this article. At BeekeepingStarter.com, you can find thousands of useful tips to start beekeeping whether if you’re a newbie or a professional beekeeper.