In an article recently published in the Entomological Society of America’s Environmental Entomology, researchers argue that the Varroa mite has “co-opted” several honeybee behaviors to its own benefit, allowing it to disperse widely even though the mite itself is not a highly mobile insect. The mite’s ability to hitchhike on wandering bees, the infections it transmits to bees, and the density of colonies in managed beekeeping settings, make for a deadly combination.
“Colony losses in the U.S. are at unsustainable levels for commercial beekeepers. These beekeepers supply colonies for the pollination of crops that represent one-third of U.S. agriculture and are essential components of heart healthy and cancer-prevention diets,” says DeGrandi-Hoffman. “This research provides evidence that the tried and true ways of controlling Varroa are no longer feasible and that new methods that are designed for control of a migratory pest are required.”