• Combating Parasites in the Beehive

    Understanding the Life Cycle of the Varroa Mite

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    Worker bees often carry Varroa mites with them into the hive and thus become infected.

Deaf and blind, the Varroa mite smells and feels its way through the beehive. Its goal is the brood cells, where it can reproduce and infect the next generation of bees with diseases, thus weakening the entire colony. Beekeepers have very few options for keeping this ­parasite under control. Bayer experts are therefore not only working on new control mechanisms for the mite but are also investigating how existing substances can be used with maximum efficiency, leaving the bees and the brood unharmed.

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  • The Challenge:
    The Varroa destructor mite is the biggest threat to the western honey bee.
  • Solution:
    Intensive monitoring can help researchers understand the parasite better.
  • Benefit:
    Bayer researchers want to use this knowledge to develop new active substances and strategies against the mite.

Parasite in perspective

A mite on a bee is like a rabbit-sized parasite attacking a human.

In the “Jugend forscht” youth science contest, Jessica Kirchner investigated whether the house pseudoscorpion can be used as a predator to control the Varroa mite.

Hunters on a Mission

The Varroa mite is a subject of interest to the next generation of scientists too: in the “Jugend forscht” youth science contest, secondary school student Jessica Kirchner investigated whether the house pseudoscorpion can help honey bees by predating the parasites. “I put the pseudoscorpion into a colony and observed how it reacted to the Varroa mites and whether it could help the bees,” she explains. The house pseudoscorpion, an arachnid which only measures a few millimeters in length, lives in our houses where it hunts small arthropods such as booklice and house dust mites. Jessica’s work showed that pseudoscorpions and bees can mutually benefit but that this hunter is not enough to keep the Varroa mite under control in the conditions prevalent in bee colonies on its own.

Varroa destructor is the biggest threat to the western honey bee.

It is vital that we intensively investigate the behavior of the ­Varroa mite if we want to further optimize our treatment measures.

Deadly Danger

Without human assistance, a colony of European honey bees infested by mites generally dies off within 3 years. Bayer researchers have therefore developed a plastic strip ­containing an acaridical active substance, which is fitted over the entrance to the beehive and designed to prevent mite infestation. It is planned to bring the product to market in 2017 for use by beekeepers as part of their integrated ­Varroa management programs.

The Varroa mite is the biggest problem for the western honey bee.