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Parasitology. 2011 Apr;138(5):602-8. doi: 10.1017/S0031182011000072. Epub 2011 Feb 1.

Salivary secretions from the honeybee mite, Varroa destructor: effects on insect haemocytes and preliminary biochemical characterization.

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The Food and Environment Research Agency, Sand Hutton, York YO41 1LZ, UK.



The ectoparasitic honey bee mite Varroa destructor feeds on the haemolymph of the honey bee, Apis mellifera, through a single puncture wound that does not heal but remains open for several days. It was hypothesized that factors in the varroa saliva are responsible for this aberrant wound healing.


An in vitro procedure was developed for collecting salivary gland secretions from V. destructor. Mites were incubated on balls of cotton wool soaked in a tissue culture medium (TC-100), and then induced to spit by topical application of an ethanolic pilocarpine solution.


Elution of secretions from balls of cotton wool, followed by electrophoretic analysis by SDS-PAGE and electroblotting indicated the presence of at least 15 distinct protein bands, with molecular weights ranging from 130 kDa to <17 kDa. Serial titration of V. destructor salivary secretions in TC-100 followed by an 18-h incubation with haemocytes from the caterpillar, Lacanobia oleracea, indicated that the secretions damage the haemocytes and suppresses their ability to extend pseudopods and form aggregates.


We suggest that these secretions facilitate the ability of V. destructor to feed repeatedly off their bee hosts by suppressing haemocyte-mediated wound healing and plugging responses in the host.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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