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J Econ Entomol. 2004 Jun;97(3):741-7.

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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Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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