What is Eating Our Bees Alive – Varroa Mites

A worker bee carries a Varroa mite, visible in this close-up view. Photo: Scott Bauer / USDA via AP


Varroa mite parasites are endangering host pollinators. Get to know more about “ZomBees”.

Varroa mites are external honeybee parasites that attack both the adults and the brood, with a distinct preference for drone brood. They suck the blood from both the adults and the developing brood, weakening and shortening the life span of the ones on which they feed. Emerging brood may be deformed with missing legs or wings. Untreated infestations of varroa mites that are allowed to increase will kill honeybee colonies. Losses due to these parasitic mites are often confused with causes such as winter mortality and queenlessness if the colonies are not examined for mites. — University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture

Apistan® is probably the best and simplest defence against the varroa mite. Since the 1980s it has been the benchmark treatment and is now registered for use in more than 40 countries. — Vita-Europe product page for Apistan®

The relatively low toxicity of tau-fluvalinate [active ingredient in Apistan]…to honey bees has allowed its successful use as an acaricide applied inside hives to control parasitic varroa mites. — Ask Nature, Enzymes Break Down Pesticides: Honey Bee

Currently, the only registered treatment for small hive beetle in Canada is through the use of CheckMite+®. Although this treatment may reduce the numbers of small hive beetles in a honey bee colony, it may not completely eliminate the infestation. CheckMite+® is relatively toxic to bees and humans; appropriate care is required in application — Bayer product page for CheckMite+®

Are you using the right miticide? Are your mites resistant to Apistan® or CheckMite+? Use this test BEFORE treating your bees. — USDA, Agricultural Research Service

Sadly our honeybee hosts for these killer parasites could be called “ZomBees”.


zom-bee using liquid latex and toilet paper by Cecile VossMarch Against Monsanto Detroit is considering working on a ZomBee Apocalypse theme for October events, which we would like to call a Swarm for Sweetest DayFacebook event link.

Monsanto Stepping in to “Save the Bees”

Of course biotech giant Monsanto has defined a role since it is reeling from backlash for neonicotoid pesticides weakening honeybee health. It has been busy with BioDirect and Beelogic.


BioDirect technology uses molecules found in nature that we expect to develop for use in topically applied crop protection and other products. BioDirect technology may enable specific and effective products with a wide range of applications – including weed, insect and virus control. — Monsanto product page for BioDirect


In 2011 Monsanto, the maker of herbicides and genetically engineered seeds, bought an Israeli company called Beeologics, which had developed an RNA interference technology that can be fed to bees through sugar water. The idea is that when a nurse bee spits this sugar water into each cell of a honeycomb where a queen bee has laid an egg, the resulting larvae will consume the RNA interference treatment. With the right sequence in the interfering RNA, the treatment will be harmless to the larvae, but when a mite feeds on it, the pest will ingest its own self-destruct signal.

The RNA interference technology would not be carried from generation to generation. “It’s a transient effect; it’s not a genetically modified organism,” says Bowman.

Monsanto says it has identified a few self-destruct triggers to explore by looking at genes that are fundamental to the biology of the mite. “Something in reproduction or egg laying or even just basic housekeeping genes can be a good target provided they have enough difference from the honeybee sequence,” says Greg Heck, a researcher at Monsanto.

The beauty of RNA interference, says Bowman, is its specificity—the nucleotides in the double-stranded RNA treatment must exactly match a portion of the gene product that it targets for the silencing to work. Researchers have sequenced the whole genome of the honeybee and portions of the mite genome, so the task of finding ideal targets should not be difficult, says Heck. — Technology Review, Monsanto and others look to RNA interference to fight widespread bee-killing mites.