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varroosis of honey bees

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varroosis of honey bees

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 08 March 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Animal Disease
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • varroosis of honey bees
  • Overview
  • This datasheet is about varroosis of honey bees as defined by the OIE (OIE, 2011), i.e. as a disease of Apis mellifer...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); extreme close-up of an adult female. Dorsal view, on the head of a bee larva. mite width ~2mm.
TitleAdult female
CaptionVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); extreme close-up of an adult female. Dorsal view, on the head of a bee larva. mite width ~2mm.
Copyright©Gilles San Martin, Namur, Belgium/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.0
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); extreme close-up of an adult female. Dorsal view, on the head of a bee larva. mite width ~2mm.
Adult femaleVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); extreme close-up of an adult female. Dorsal view, on the head of a bee larva. mite width ~2mm.©Gilles San Martin, Namur, Belgium/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.0
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); European honey bee (Apis mellifera) with a Varroa mite (arrowed) on its thorax. Major mite infestations cause disease and death in honey bee colonies.
TitleHost
CaptionVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); European honey bee (Apis mellifera) with a Varroa mite (arrowed) on its thorax. Major mite infestations cause disease and death in honey bee colonies.
Copyright©Scott Bauer/USDA-ARS
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); European honey bee (Apis mellifera) with a Varroa mite (arrowed) on its thorax. Major mite infestations cause disease and death in honey bee colonies.
HostVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); European honey bee (Apis mellifera) with a Varroa mite (arrowed) on its thorax. Major mite infestations cause disease and death in honey bee colonies.©Scott Bauer/USDA-ARS
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); an adult worker honey bee (Apis mellifera) with two Varroa mites on its thorax.
TitleHost
CaptionVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); an adult worker honey bee (Apis mellifera) with two Varroa mites on its thorax.
Copyright©Stephen Ausmus/USDA-ARS
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); an adult worker honey bee (Apis mellifera) with two Varroa mites on its thorax.
HostVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); an adult worker honey bee (Apis mellifera) with two Varroa mites on its thorax.©Stephen Ausmus/USDA-ARS
Varroa destructor, a blood-sucking parasitic mite of honey bees (Apis mellifera).
TitleMite
CaptionVarroa destructor, a blood-sucking parasitic mite of honey bees (Apis mellifera).
Copyright©Scott Bauer/USDA-ARS
Varroa destructor, a blood-sucking parasitic mite of honey bees (Apis mellifera).
MiteVarroa destructor, a blood-sucking parasitic mite of honey bees (Apis mellifera).©Scott Bauer/USDA-ARS
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); varroa mites found at the bottom of a honey bee brood cell.
TitleInfestation
CaptionVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); varroa mites found at the bottom of a honey bee brood cell.
Copyright©Scott Bauer/USDA-ARS
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); varroa mites found at the bottom of a honey bee brood cell.
InfestationVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); varroa mites found at the bottom of a honey bee brood cell. ©Scott Bauer/USDA-ARS
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); an adult female Varroa mite feeding on a developing bee.
TitleAdult female mite
CaptionVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); an adult female Varroa mite feeding on a developing bee.
Copyright©Scott Bauer/USDA-ARS
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); an adult female Varroa mite feeding on a developing bee.
Adult female miteVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); an adult female Varroa mite feeding on a developing bee.©Scott Bauer/USDA-ARS
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); entomologist Jeff Pettis examines a screen that separates live Varroa mites from bees, thus reducing mite levels in honey bee colonies.
TitlePrevention measures
CaptionVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); entomologist Jeff Pettis examines a screen that separates live Varroa mites from bees, thus reducing mite levels in honey bee colonies.
Copyright©Peggy Greb/USDA-ARS
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); entomologist Jeff Pettis examines a screen that separates live Varroa mites from bees, thus reducing mite levels in honey bee colonies.
Prevention measuresVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); entomologist Jeff Pettis examines a screen that separates live Varroa mites from bees, thus reducing mite levels in honey bee colonies.©Peggy Greb/USDA-ARS
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); although the 22% smaller size of starter honeycomb cells (b) can hardly be seen, the tighter, more natural spacing than (a) helps honey bees survive Varroa infestations.
TitlePrevention measures
CaptionVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); although the 22% smaller size of starter honeycomb cells (b) can hardly be seen, the tighter, more natural spacing than (a) helps honey bees survive Varroa infestations.
Copyright©Jack Dykinga/USDA-ARS
Varroa destructor (Varroa mite); although the 22% smaller size of starter honeycomb cells (b) can hardly be seen, the tighter, more natural spacing than (a) helps honey bees survive Varroa infestations.
Prevention measuresVarroa destructor (Varroa mite); although the 22% smaller size of starter honeycomb cells (b) can hardly be seen, the tighter, more natural spacing than (a) helps honey bees survive Varroa infestations.©Jack Dykinga/USDA-ARS
Varroa jacobsoni (Varroa mite); dorsal view. Similar species to V. destructor. Collected on Apis cerana.
TitleSimilar species
CaptionVarroa jacobsoni (Varroa mite); dorsal view. Similar species to V. destructor. Collected on Apis cerana.
Copyright©Ken Walker-2005/Museum Victoria - CC BY 3.0 AU - www.padil.gov.au
Varroa jacobsoni (Varroa mite); dorsal view. Similar species to V. destructor. Collected on Apis cerana.
Similar speciesVarroa jacobsoni (Varroa mite); dorsal view. Similar species to V. destructor. Collected on Apis cerana.©Ken Walker-2005/Museum Victoria - CC BY 3.0 AU - www.padil.gov.au
Varroa jacobsoni (Varroa mite); ventral view. similar species to V. destructor. Collected on Apis cerana.
TitleSimilar species
CaptionVarroa jacobsoni (Varroa mite); ventral view. similar species to V. destructor. Collected on Apis cerana.
Copyright©Ken Walker-2005/Museum Victoria - CC BY 3.0 AU - www.padil.gov.au
Varroa jacobsoni (Varroa mite); ventral view. similar species to V. destructor. Collected on Apis cerana.
Similar speciesVarroa jacobsoni (Varroa mite); ventral view. similar species to V. destructor. Collected on Apis cerana.©Ken Walker-2005/Museum Victoria - CC BY 3.0 AU - www.padil.gov.au

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • varroosis of honey bees

International Common Names

  • English: Varroa mite infestation; varroasis; varroatosis
  • Spanish: varroasis
  • French: varroase

Overview

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This datasheet is about varroosis of honey bees as defined by the OIE (OIE, 2011), i.e. as a disease of Apis mellifera caused by the Korea and Japan haplotypes of the mite Varroa destructor.

V. destructor (Acari: Varroidae) is an ectoparasitic mite that attacks all life cycle stages of many species of honey bees, including A. mellifera and its subspecies. It is thought to be native to the Far East where it parasitizes the Asiatic honey bee A. cerana and is not invasive, but since it appeared on A. mellifera (possibly in the 1950s) it has been introduced widely and is now a cosmopolitan species (Sanford et al., 2007), with Australia being the only large area not yet invaded. Importation of queen bees from infested areas and movement of infested bee colonies for pollination have allowed rapid spread.

Apiculture can be severely affected by varroosis. Impacts include not only direct parasitism by sucking of blood, but also facilitation of the spread of bee viruses and other diseases; if left unchecked, infestation can lead to colony collapse. Eradication from infested hives is not possible, though chemical, biotechnical and biological control methods can mitigate the impacts.

The genus Varroa includes more than 18 genetically different strains of mites (Cobey, 2001). V. destructor and V. jacobsoni are thought to be closely related (Zhang, 2000; Delaplane, 2001), both parasitizing Apis cerana, and it was thought that it was V. jacobsoni that attacked A. mellifera. However, Anderson and Trueman (2000) recognised V. destructor as a separate species, and corrected previous confusion and mislabelling in the literature prior to 2000. The Korea and Japan/Thailand genotypes of V. destructor are the only Varroa mites that can reproduce in colonies of A. mellifera.

Host Animals

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Animal nameContextLife stageSystem
Apis ceranaOther: All Stages
Apis koschevnikoviOther: All Stages
Apis melliferaDomesticated hostOther: All Stages

Hosts/Species Affected

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V. destructor is an external parasite of a broad range of honey bees, including A. mellifera, A. cerana and A. koschevnikovi. Apis spp. show some variation in resistance to V. destructor. Varroa mites usually cause the collapse of A. mellifera colonies in contrast to A. cerana which can support populations of mites without collapse, and A. melliferascutellata also appears to have some resistance or tolerance to the Varroa mite (Ritter, 1981; Sanford et al., 2007). V. destructor attacks all lifecycle stages by sucking blood through punctures made in the host body wall using its sharp mouthparts, weakening the insect and shortening lifespan, and also acting as a virus vector in colonies and enhancing harmful effects of other bee diseases such as acarapisosis caused by tracheal mites Acarapis woodi (Fera, 2010). 

Other flower-feeding insects found to harbour this mite include Bombus pennsylvanicus (Hymenoptera: Apidae), Palpada vinetorum (Diptera: Syrphidae) and Phanaeus vindex (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae), and although it cannot reproduce on these insects, the association may contribute to short-distance spread of the mite (Denmark et al., 2000); the impacts of the mite on these hosts are not stated.

Distribution

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V. destructor is thought to be native to the Far East where it parasitizes the Asiatic honey bee Apis cerana and is not invasive, though it has been introduced widely and is now a cosmopolitan species (Sanford et al., 2007), with Australia being the only large area not yet invaded.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

AfghanistanNo information availableOIE, 2009
ArmeniaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
AzerbaijanDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
BahrainDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
BangladeshNo information availableMarin, 1978; OIE, 2009
BhutanNo information availableOIE, 2009
CambodiaNo information availableEhara, 1968; OIE, 2009
ChinaNo information availableTzien-He, 1965; Zhou et al., 2004; OIE, 2009
-GuangdongNo information availableZhou et al., 2004; OIE, 2009
-Hong KongNo information availableDelfinado, 1963; OIE, 2009
-YunnanNo information availableZhou et al., 2004; OIE, 2009
Georgia (Republic of)PresentOIE, 2009
IndiaNo information availablePhadke et al., 1966; OIE, 2009
IndonesiaDisease never reportedOudemans, 1904; OIE, 2009
IranPresentCrane, 1979; Rahmani et al., 2006; OIE, 2009
IraqPresentOIE, 2009
IsraelPresentOIE, 2009
JapanPresentOIE, 2009
JordanNo information availableAlattal et al., 2006; OIE, 2009
KazakhstanDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
Korea, DPRPresentTian, 1967In Sandford et al. (2007)
Korea, Republic ofNo information availableDelfinado and Baker, 1974; OIE, 2009
KuwaitDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
KyrgyzstanRestricted distributionOIE, 2009
LaosNo information availableOIE, 2009
LebanonPresentPopa, 1980; Sanford et al., 2007; OIE, 2009
MalaysiaPresentOIE, 2009
MongoliaNo information availableOIE, 2009
MyanmarNo information availableMarin, 1978; OIE, 2009
NepalNo information availableOIE, 2009
OmanNo information availableOIE, 2009
PakistanNo information availableOIE, 2009
PhilippinesNo information availableDelfinado, 1963; OIE, 2009
QatarNo information availableOIE, 2009
Saudi ArabiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
SingaporeDisease never reportedSanford et al., 2007; OIE, 2009
Sri LankaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
SyriaNo information availableOIE, 2009
TaiwanPresentAratanakul and Burgett, 1975In Sandford et al. (2007)
TajikistanDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
ThailandNo information availableLaigo and Morse, 1969; Chantawannakul et al., 2006; Warrit et al., 2006; OIE, 2009
TurkeyNo information availableÇakmak et al., 2002b; Crane, 1979; Çakmak et al., 2003; Warrit et al., 2004; OIE, 2009
United Arab EmiratesDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
VietnamNo information availableStephen, 1968; OIE, 2009
YemenNo information availableOIE, 2009

Africa

AlgeriaPresentBoecking et al., 2000; Nadir Alloui et al., 2002; Allsopp, 2004; OIE, 2009
AngolaNo information availableOIE, 2009
BeninNo information availableOIE, 2009
BotswanaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
Burkina FasoNo information availableOIE, 2009
ChadNo information availableOIE, 2009
CongoNo information availableOIE, 2009
DjiboutiDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
EgyptDisease not reportedHassan and Mohamed, 2003; OIE, 2009
EritreaNo information availableOIE, 2009
EthiopiaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
GabonNo information availableOIE, 2009
GambiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
GhanaNo information availableOIE, 2009
GuineaNo information availableOIE, 2009
Guinea-BissauNo information availableOIE, 2009
KenyaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
LesothoDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
LibyaPresentCrane, 1979In Sandford et al. (2007)
MadagascarDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
MalawiNo information availableOIE, 2009
MaliNo information availableOIE, 2009
MauritiusDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
MoroccoNo information availableOIE, 2009
MozambiqueNo information availableOIE, 2009
NamibiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
NigeriaNo information availableOIE, 2009
RwandaNo information availableOIE, 2009
SenegalNo information availableOIE, 2009
South AfricaNo information availableLach et al., 2002; OIE, 2009
SudanDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
SwazilandNo information availableOIE, 2009
TanzaniaNo information availableOIE, 2009
TogoNo information availableOIE, 2009
TunisiaDisease not reportedHaïfa et al., 2003; Sanford et al., 2007; OIE, 2009
UgandaNo information availableOIE, 2009
ZambiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
ZimbabwePresentOIE, 2009

North America

CanadaPresentDenmark et al., 2000; OIE, 2009
GreenlandDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
MexicoPresentMedina et al., 2002; OIE, 2009
USAPresentOIE, 2009
-CaliforniaPresentBoyce et al., 2002Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
-FloridaPresentDenmark et al., 2000; Elzen and Westervelt, 2002; Pettis and Jadczak, 2005; Sanford et al., 2007
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced2007Danka et al., 2012; University of Hawaii Honeybee Project, 2014First reported in Oahu in March 2007 and in the Big Island in August 2008
-LouisianaPresentIntroduced1992Villa, 2004
-MainePresentPettis, 2004; Pettis and Jadczak, 2005
-MarylandPresentPettis and Jadczak, 2005; Sanford et al., 2007
-NebraskaPresentMacedo et al., 2002
-New YorkPresentSeeley, 2007Arnot Forest
-WisconsinPresentIntroduced1987Sanford et al., 2007

Central America and Caribbean

AnguillaWidespreadAllsopp, 2004
BelizeAbsent, reported but not confirmedOIE, 2009
Costa RicaPresentOIE, 2009
CubaPresentOIE, 2009
Dominican RepublicPresentOIE, 2009
El SalvadorDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
GuadeloupePresentOIE, 2009
GuatemalaPresentOIE, 2009
HaitiNo information availableOIE, 2009
HondurasNo information availableOIE, 2009
JamaicaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
MartiniquePresentOIE, 2009
NicaraguaPresentOIE, 2009
PanamaNo information availableOIE, 2009

South America

ArgentinaPresentMontiel and Piola, 1976; OIE, 2009
BoliviaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
BrazilDisease not reportedAlves et al., 1975; Moretto and Leonidas, 2003; OIE, 2009
-Sao PauloManrique and Soares, 2004; OIE, 2009
ChilePresentHinojosa and González, 2004; OIE, 2009
ColombiaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
EcuadorAbsent, reported but not confirmedOIE, 2009
French GuianaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
ParaguayPresentOrosi-Pal, 1975In Sandford et al. (2007)
PeruDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
UruguayPresentSanford et al., 2007; OIE, 2009
VenezuelaNo information availablePrincipal et al., 2004; OIE, 2009

Europe

AlbaniaRestricted distributionOIE, 2009
AustriaDisease not reportedGrabensteiner and Nowotny, 2001; OIE, 2009
BelarusPresentOIE, 2009
BelgiumDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
BulgariaDisease not reportedVelitchkov and Natchev, 1973; OIE, 2009
CroatiaPresentOIE, 2009
CyprusPresentOIE, 2009
Czech RepublicPresentVeselý, 2005; OIE, 2009
Czechoslovakia (former)PresentSamsinak and Haragsim, 1972In Sandford et al. (2007)
DenmarkPresentOIE, 2009
EstoniaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
FinlandPresentOIE, 2009
FranceNo information availableOIE, 2009
GermanyDisease not reportedRuttner, 1977; OIE, 2009
GreeceRestricted distributionSantas, 1979; Kokkinis and Liakos, 2004; Bacandritsos and Papanastasiou, 2006; OIE, 2009
HungaryPresentBuza, 1978; OIE, 2009
IcelandDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
IrelandPresentOIE, 2009; Fera, 2010
ItalyPresentMazzone et al., 2004; Parrella et al., 2004; Greatti, 2005; OIE, 2009
LatviaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
LiechtensteinPresentOIE, 2009
LithuaniaPresentOIE, 2009
LuxembourgPresentOIE, 2009
MacedoniaAbsent, reported but not confirmedOIE, 2009
MaltaAbsent, reported but not confirmedOIE, 2009
MontenegroPresentOIE, 2009
NetherlandsPresentOIE, 2009
NorwayDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
PolandPresentSanford et al., 2007; OIE, 2009
PortugalPresentOIE, 2009
RomaniaRestricted distributionOrosi-Pal, 1975; OIE, 2009
Russian FederationPresentOIE, 2009
SerbiaPresentOIE, 2009
SlovakiaDisease not reportedVeselý, 2005; OIE, 2009
SloveniaPresentOIE, 2009
SpainRestricted distributionOIE, 2009
SwedenPresentOIE, 2009
SwitzerlandPresentOIE, 2009
UKPresentOIE, 2009; Fera, 2010
UkrainePresentAkimov et al., 2004; Veselý, 2005; OIE, 2009
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)PresentSantas, 1979; Sanford et al., 2007

Oceania

AustraliaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
French PolynesiaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
New CaledoniaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
New ZealandPresentZhang, 2000; Goodwin et al., 2005; Stevenson et al., 2005; Biosecurity New Zealand, 2006; OIE, 2009

Diagnosis

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A bee colony containing small numbers of mites may not show obvious signs of infestation. A severe infestation results in old adult bees not being replaced by young adult bees, and the rapid spread of viruses in the colony. Foraging, brood rearing and colony defence decrease and the social organisation of the colony deteriorates, called colony collapse, which can be avoided by inspecting colonies for mites and deformed adult bees (Fera, 2010). In the UK, colony collapse most likely occurs in August and September; however, spring colony collapse can also occur in March, April and possibly May. Mite levels should be assessed in spring to determine occurrence of infestation (Fera, 2010).

Calatayud and Verdu (1993) first described the method where mites are collected and counted from a board at the bottom of the hive to assess levels of mite infestation. However, counting the natural fall of mites in shorter periods of time reduces the counting period and can be successfully used to determine when to treat colonies in commercial apiaries (Flores-Serrano et al., 2002).

Mites can also be dislodged by shaking adult bees in a jar of ether, or powdered sugar (Sanford et al., 2007), and they stick to the glass.
 
A mathematical model called VARROAPOP predicts the influence of the Varroa mite on honey bee colony population growth and survival, taking into account weather conditions, bee and V. destructor biology, and the effects of miticides and immigration of mites into colonies on the population growth of Varroa and colony survival (Degrandi-Hoffman and Curry, 2005).
 
Parrella et al. (2004) discussed the positive results of a preliminary investigation exploring the possibility of using RT-PCR and viral RNA hybridisation with a specific riboprobe for diagnosis of bee viruses in Italy.

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
General Signs / Lack of growth or weight gain, retarded, stunted growth Sign
Reproductive Signs / Male infertility Sign

Disease Course

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The symptoms in bee colonies infested with V. destructor may include: decreased weight of adult bees; decreased lifespan of adult bees; virus infections transmitted by Varroa feeding on pupae; deformed wings and abdomens probably resulting from virus infestations; reduced numbers of drone bees; increased drone infertility; and reduced water levels and lower protein and carbohydrate concentrations in parasitized bees, although lipid concentration did not appear to be affected and loss of metabolic reserves was not serious enough to be directly responsible for high bee mortality and colony collapse (Bowen-Walker and Gunn, 2001). Further results suggested that Varroa is an important vector of pathogens.

Other symptoms of infestation include restless behaviour, brood neglect, discarded pupae at the hive entrance and malformed, discoloured workers and drones (Barlow and Fell, 2006).

Epidemiology

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V. destructor is thought to be native to the Far East where where it parasitizes the Asiatic honey bee Apis cerana and is not invasive, though it has been introduced widely and is now a cosmopolitan species (Sanford et al., 2007), with Australia being the only large area not yet invaded.

Its entire life-cycle occurs within the hive. A female mite lays eggs in bee brood cells and developing mites feed on developing bee larvae (Denmark et al., 2000), preferring drone brood (Bessin, 2001). Males and females copulate inside the cell and the male dies, leaving the pregnant females to emerge from the cell with the bee host. Another cell is located to repeat the cycle, and the mite population increase may be significantly greater if the postcapping time is longer.
 
The mite develops to adulthood through two juvenile stages, the protonymph and deutonymph, and development time from egg to adult is 5-6 days for males and 7-8 days for females. Each female lays 5-6 eggs, the first being a male followed by 4-5 female eggs, laid at regular 30-hour intervals. The male emerges first, and 20 hours later the oldest daughter moults to adulthood. By laying only one male egg, Varroa mites increase the number of females that can reproduce at the next generation. Males cannot survive outside the cell, so the females must be fertilised before the bee emerges from the cell, otherwise they remain sterile (Fera, 2010). Immature females cannot survive outsde the cell either.
 
The life expectancy of Varroa mites depends on the presence of brood and will vary from 27 days to approximately 5 months. During the summer in the UK, they live for approximately 2-3 months. In this time, providing brood is available, they can complete 3-4 breeding cycles. In the winter, when brood rearing is restricted, mites only overwinter on adult bees within the cluster, until brood rearing commences the following spring (Fera, 2010).
 
Mites are mobile and can easily spread within a bee colony (Fera, 2010), but they are unable to travel outside of the hives without a vector. They can be spread from colony to colony via drifting workers and drones within an apiary and when bees rob smaller colonies (Bessin, 2001). In addition to being carried on honey bees, this mite has been recorded on flower-feeding insects such as bumblebees Bombus pennsylvanicus (Hymenoptera: Apidae), flower flies Palpada vinetorum (Diptera: Syrphidae) and rainbow scarab beetles Phanaeus vindex (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). These insects will aid in short distance dispersal, but V. destructor can only reproduce on honey bees (Kevan et al., 1990; Denmark et al., 2000).
 
The movement of infested colonies of bees has facilitated the rapid local spread of V. destructor (Denmark et al., 2000), and is the main means of spread over long distances (Fera, 2010).

Impact

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One of the most significant potential impacts of Varroa mite includes economic, social and environmental concerns. Insect pollinated crops are estimated to provide approximately one third of human food, and about 80% of this pollination is provided by the European honeybee, Apis mellifera. Thus, a loss in numbers of A. mellifera due to infestation by V. destructor could lead to substantial negative but indirect impacts from lower crop yields due a lack of adequate pollinators.

As well as their direct effects on the bees, Varroa mites also have an impact by spreading diseases. Viruses causing mortality of bees infested with Varroa mite include Kashmir bee virus, showing virus transmission from mite to bee pupae and a virus transfer rate of over 50% from mite to mite (Chen et al., 2004; Todd et al., 2004). Other viruses thought to be transmitted by V. destructor are Deformed wing virus, Sacbrood virus, Acute bee paralysis virus (Tentcheva et al., 2004; Chen et al., 2005) and Slow paralysis virus. European foul brood caused by the coccoid bacteria Melissococcus pluton (Kanbar et al., 2004), and Paenibacillus, which causes American foul brood, may also be transmitted by V. destructor (Rycke et al., 2002). Benoit et al. (2004) reported on the potential of V. destructor to disperse spores of Aspergillus, Penicillium, Fusarium, Trichoderma, Alternaria, Rhizopus and Mucor throughout bee colonies. The fungi have only been recorded on the surface of mites and not internally, indicating that the mite is not a fungivore. The mould fungus, Aspergillus flavus is the agent of stonebrood disease in honey bees and V. destructor is implicated as a vector (Benoit et al., 2004).

Economic impact

Apiculture is severely affected by the activities of V. destructor, either by direct parasitism or indirectly by facilitating the spread of bee viruses and diseases. If left unchecked, mites can infest hives beyond an economic threshold and lead to colony collapse (Fera, 2010). Since being first recorded in New Zealand in 2000, Varroa has caused an approximate 50% reduction in the number of beekeepers. 

Environmental impact

V. destructor attacks all life cycle stages of bees by sucking blood through punctures made in the host body wall, using its sharp mouthparts, weakening the insect and shortening lifespan, and also acting as a virus vector in colonies and aiding the harmful effects of other bee diseases such as acarapisosis caused by tracheal mites Acarpis woodi (Fera, 2010).

Honey bees offer an immeasurable contribution to floral biodiversity and conservation. The horticulture and agriculture sectors rely on pollinating insects such as Apis spp. V. destructor is devastating to bee colonies and a reduction in pollinating bees could result in reduced pollination and ultimately decreased overall yields and crop quality; for example the threat of invasion into Australia by this mite is considered as one of the greatest threats to insect pollination and thus to agriculture (Cunningham et al., 2002).

Morretto and Leonidas (2003) stated that the impact of V. destructor is related to climatic conditions and the race of A. mellifera invaded, and a study in southern Brazil found mite infestation to be low (2 mites per 100 bees), and comparable to infestation levels 5 years previously.

Social impact

Collapse of colonies and the spread of bee diseases can have a serious affect on apiculture and thus is of particular concern to those who rely on beekeeping for their livelihoods (see Allsopp, 2004). Also, V. destructor has such a negative impact on beekeeping that it is possible some will forfeit their organic status in order to use varroicides not approved by organic certification bodies, to combat the problem with synthetic pesticides considered to be more effective (Biosecurity New Zealand, 2006).

Zoonoses and Food Safety

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Varroacidal residues in honey and wax can be a problem (Wallner and Fries, 2003).

Disease Treatment

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See 'Prevention and Control' section.

Prevention and Control

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Control

V. destructor cannot be eliminated from bee colonies, but beekeepers can monitor its presence and still maintain productive bees, and control methods can be used to keep mites at a manageable level (Fera, 2010).

Physical/mechanical control
 
Biotechnical methods are one of the two main control methodologies used by beekeepers to control V. destructor. This term refers to physical control, such as trapping the mites in combs of brood which are then removed and destroyed. During the active season, the use of varroacides may not be appropriate, and therefore biotechnical methods are popular at these times. However, some methods are time-consuming, complicated to use, and dependant on good timing (Fera, 2010). Commonly used biotechnical methods, according to Fera (2010), are: drone brood removal; comb trapping; artificial swarm; and open mesh floors.
 
For example, open-screen floors in hives may interfere with mite population growth by decreasing the rate at which mites invade brood cells, leading to fewer mites, a lower percentage of mites in brood cells and more cells of capped brood compared with hives with wooden floors (Harbo and Harris, 2004).
 
Control of V. destructor in honey bee colonies and problems with varroicidal residues are discussed by Wallner and Fries (2003), who document physical control methods such as: harvesting honey before the application of chemical treatments; not using combs from the brood nest area in honey supers; and annual replacement of a proportion of all combs in a colony.
 
A high proportion of V. destructor mites can be removed from bee colonies by creating an artificial swarm. This involves moving the parent colony approximately 4 m from the original colony site. A second hive containing newly drawn combs and the queen is placed on the original site, causing foragers to return to this hive, creating an artificial swarm. Further management procedures are undertaken after 9 days and 3 weeks (Fera, 2010).
 
Biological control
 
Several studies have evaluated the role of natural enemies to control V. destructor. Donovan and Paul (2005) explored the possibility of using pseudoscorpions for the control of Varroa and other arthropod pests and they reported on the collection of Ellingsenius indicus (Arachnida: Chelonethi) from Apis cerana colonies in India (Donovan and Paul, 2006). The pseudoscorpions were observed to eat arthropod enemies of honey bees including V. destructor, and pseudoscorpions have also been recorded in A. mellifera colonies.
 
Various microbial agents have been assessed as controls for V. destructor (see Shaw et al., 2002 for a review of 40 isolates). Hirsutella thompsonii, a well known fungal pathogen associated with acarines, has proved to be effective in laboratory trials (Peng et al., 2003) and field trials, persisting and sporulating on the host (Kanga et al., 2003a). Other microbial agents to show potential against V. destructor in laboratory assays include Metarhizium anisopliae, Verticillium lecanii and Beauveria bassiana (Shaw et al., 2002).
 
In field trials in Texas and Florida, USA, the efficacy of M. anisopliae against this mite has been tested (Kanga et al., 2003b; Kanga et al., 2006), and application of the fungal agent was shown to reduce the number of mites per bee, and that fungal microbial control of Varroa mites could be used in IPM programmes.
 
Potential bacterial control agents of V. destructor belonging to Bacillaceae and Micrococcaceae were reported by Tsagou et al. (2004).
 
Ongus (2006) discussed the potential of Varroa destructor virus 1, which has been found in the mites and A. mellifera, for control of V. destructor.
 
V. destructor mites are also reportedly deterred by a crude extract of royal jelly (Drijfhout et al., 2005).
 
Chemical control
 
Chemical control, i.e. the application of varroacides, is the other main method for control of V. destructor used by beekeepers (Fera, 2010). Varroacides (specific miticides) are applied in feed, directly onto the adult bees, as fumigants, using contact strips or by evaporation (Fera, 2010). During the active season, the use of varroacides may not be appropriate, and therefore biotechnical methods are popular at these times. However, some methods are time-consuming, complicated to use, and dependant on good timing (Fera, 2010).
 
Repeated exposure of mites to varroacides may lead to resistance (e.g. Elzen and Westervelt, 2002; Pettis, 2004; Sammataro et al., 2005). This can be avoided by: treating with the specified dose; treating for the period specified; treating as infrequently as possible; and alternation of treatments (Fera, 2010). Products to control mites, based on pyrethroids, became available at the end of the 1980s, but resistance eventually developed. The use of pyrethroids for control has been widespread in the UK, leading to the establishment of a national screening programme for resistance to pyrethroids in 2000 (Thompson et al., 2002). In 2001, Fera’s resistance surveillance programme found the first confirmed case of pyrethroid resistance in Devon, UK, and there have now been a significant number of confirmed reports of resistance in the south-west of England and across many other parts of England and Wales (Fera, 2010).
 
In addition, treatments to control V. destructor often have unacceptable side affects on bees, making the need for alternative controls of paramount importance (Lodesani, 2004).
 
Alternatives to synthetic acaricides include application of essential oils and essential oil components. For example, Hu et al. (2005) reported on the success rate of thymol and thymol blended with other essential oils, where mite mortality was recorded at 90%. The evaluation of natural plant extracts/essential oils to control Varroa mites is well-documented (e.g. Neira et al., 2004; Dimetry et al., 2005).
 
Host resistance
 
Genetic control has been evaluated for use against V. destructor (Allam, 2004a, b). In a study by Allam (2004b), genetic control and a combination of genetic control and cultural control, involving exposure to the sun for 5-8 hours throughout the experiment, and varroacide application were explored. Results showed that genetic control was effective, but not as effective as genetic control combined with chemical control, in terms of number of dead mites and strength of colonies.
 
The hygienic behaviour of bees is possibly a characteristic associated with resistance to V. destructor. In a study to estimate the heritability of hygienic behaviour in A. mellifera bees, Boecking et al. (2000) suggested intensifying the expression of hygienic behaviour through selective breeding, to strengthen characteristics associated with resistance to V. destructor in honey bee stock. Harris and Rinderer (2004) reported that while Russian hybrids of honey bees offer some resistance against the Varroa mite, pure ARS Russian honey bees provided maximum Varroa resistance available in Russian bees.
 
Certain bee races may be more tolerant to mite infestation, with Aumeier et al. (2002) comparing the tolerance of European honey bees (A. mellifera carnica) and Africanized honey bees (A. mellifera scutellata) to Varroa infestation, concluding that differential Varroa-infestation rates are not related to larval attraction but possibly determined by other race-specific and colony-related factors.
 
IPM programmes
 
Integrated pest management (IPM) can be used to control V. destructor and Fera (2010) lists the following as potential benefits of this control method: control at several points of the year makes it harder for the mite population to reach harmful levels; use of management methods can reduce the need for varroacides; using two or more unrelated varroacides will delay the development of resistance; and control strategies can be easily altered to reflect changing infestation levels.
 
Cakmak et al. (2002a) evaluated the efficacy of pollen traps and walnut-leaf smoke for controlling Varroa in Turkey, reporting that the use of walnut-leaf smoke alone was not effective for control, but was more effective in combination with pollen traps. Using pollen traps alone increased mite capture by 353% over a control, and honey yield was higher from colonies with pollen traps compared to those without.
 
Monitoring and Surveillance
 
Sammataro et al. (2002) described how to use an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) sticky board to monitor Varroa levels in honey bee colonies. Sticky boards consist of a piece of white board, mesh to retain the bees but allow passage of mites and a sticky substance, such as cooking spray or Tanglefoot (registered trademark). Mites will become dislodged as bees groom, fall through the mesh and adhere to the sticky board, when mite counts are undertaken and assessment of infestation levels made (Barlow and Fell, 2006).

References

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
BeeBasehttps://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/beebase/BeeBase is the website of the Fera (Food and Environment Research Agency, UK) National Bee Unit.
Biosecurity New Zealandhttp://www.biosecurity.govt.nz

Contributors

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21/05/08 Original text by:

Claire Beverley, CABI, Nosworthy Way, Wallingford, Oxon OX10 8DE, UK

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