A Honeybee Conservancy Partnership Program

The Pollinator Partnership’s Annual Mite-A-Thon

 
It was once thought that Varroa mites ( Varroa destructor ) attached themselves to honeybees to feed on the bee-equivalent of blood known as hemolymph. A 2019 study showed how these mites  feed instead on honeybee fat bodies . The implications of these findings are extremely important: honeybees rely on fat bodies to get through hard winters, which means that Varroa mites are likely contributing to low overwintering rates in North American colonies.

It was once thought that Varroa mites (Varroa destructor) attached themselves to honeybees to feed on the bee-equivalent of blood known as hemolymph. A 2019 study showed how these mites feed instead on honeybee fat bodies. The implications of these findings are extremely important: honeybees rely on fat bodies to get through hard winters, which means that Varroa mites are likely contributing to low overwintering rates in North American colonies.

WHAT IS IT? The Pollinator Partnership’s annual “Mite-A-Thon” is a citizen science initiative that brings beekeepers and honeybee researchers together. Beekeepers around the United States gather data on the Varroa mite infestations in their hives; this in turn allows the scientists in the Pollinator Partnership to analyze huge amounts of data to which they would otherwise not have access. It happens once a year at the end of when it is advisable to treat honeybee colonies for Varroa mites.

WHY DOES IT MATTER? Varroa mites (Varroa destructor) are external parasitic mites that make their way into beehives, feed on brood fat bodies, weaken the hive, and spread disease. They are an invasive mite from Asia and so many North American honeybee brood stocks don’t have the required immunity to survive large infestations. This makes Varroa mites one of the most serious, naturally-occurring adversaries to successful beekeeping.

HOW DOES HBC PARTICIPATE? In addition to teaching Varroa mite inspection protocol our Beekeeping Apprenticeships, we also offer annual workshops on Varroa mite counts in the weeks prior to the annual Mite-A-Thon. This way, local beekeepers can participate in this important initiative!

HOW CAN YOU PARTICIPATE? If you’re a beekeeper, consider cataloguing the mite checks you should be doing periodically. The Pollinator Partnership recommends: “Participants will monitor the level of mites (number of mites per 100 bees) using a standardized protocol utilizing two common methods of assessment (alcohol wash or powdered sugar roll) and then enter data, including location, total number of hives, number of hives tested, local habitat, and the number of Varroa mites counted from each hive. The published information will not identify individual participants.” If you’re not a beekeeper, consider distributing the materials presented on this page and the Pollinator Partnership page to your local beekeepers or beekeeping groups to get them involved!