The effect of the ectoparasitic mite, Varroa destructor on adult worker honeybee (Apis mellifera) emergence weights, water, protein, carbohydrate, and lipid levels

Authors

  • Peter L. Bowen-Walker,

    1. School of Biological & Earth Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Byrom Street, Liverpool, L3 3AF, UK
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      The Perse School, Hills road, Cambridge, CB2 2QF, UK

  • Alan Gunn

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Biological & Earth Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Byrom Street, Liverpool, L3 3AF, UK
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**Author for correspondence

Abstract

Wet weight, dry weight and water contents of emerging honeybees (Apis mellifera L. [Hymenoptera: Apidae]) infested with the ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor (Anderson) (Acari: Varroidae) were all negatively correlated with increasing numbers of mites. It was estimated that for every female mite present during the bees' development, the host would lose three percent of its body water. Parasitised bees also emerged with lower head and abdomen concentrations of protein and with lower abdominal carbohydrate concentrations. Lipid concentrations were not detectably affected by V. destructor infestation. The losses of metabolic reserves were not, however, judged to be serious enough to be directly responsible for the high bee mortality and ultimate colony collapse that are associated with the arrival of Varroa in a hive. Some 8.5% of the emerging bees exhibited morphological deformities and deformity was positively correlated with increasing numbers of mites in brood cells. Deformed bees were, however, found in all categories of parasitosis, suggesting that other factors, such as infectious agents, may be involved. Mites that fed on either live or dead U14C- labelled bees acquired the label within 24 h and it was calculated that an adult female mite consumes 0.67 μl haemolymph 24 h−1. It was also demonstrated that 14C was transmitted to a previously non-radio-labelled bee when a mite that had been feeding on a labelled bee changed hosts. The level of transfer was above that which could have arisen through contamination of the mites' mouthparts and supports the suggestion that Varroa is an important vector of pathogens such as viruses.

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