Altered Physiology in Worker Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Infested with the Mite Varroa destructor (Acari: Varroidae): A Factor in Colony Loss During Overwintering?

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The ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor (Anderson & Trueman) is the most destructive pest of the honey bee, Apis mellifera L., in Europe and the United States. In temperate zones, the main losses of colonies from the mites occur during colony overwintering. To obtain a deeper knowledge of this phenomenon, we studied the mites’ impact on the vitellogenin titer, the total protein stores in the hemolymph, the hemocyte characteristics, and the ecdysteroid titer of adult honey bees. These physiological characteristics are indicators of long-time survival and endocrine function, and we show that they change if bees have been infested by mites during the pupal stage. Compared with noninfested workers, adult bees infested as pupae do not fully develop physiological features typical of long-lived wintering bees. Management procedures designed to kill V. destructor in late autumn may thus fail to prevent losses of colonies because many of the adult bees are no longer able to survive until spring. Beekeepers in temperate climates should therefore combine late autumn management strategies with treatment protocols that keep the mite population at low levels before and during the period when the winter bees emerge.

Keywords: longevity; storage protein; winter bees

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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