Scientists have given a tiny mite the ominous name Varroa destructor. This parasite lives on honeybees. Scientists had thought it was a “vampire,” living off of bee blood. But tests with fake bee larvae reveal that the mite may not be so much a bloodsucker as a fat slurper. That makes the mite more werewolf than vampire, the researchers say.
The parasite invaded North America in the 1980s. Since then, it has become one of the biggest threats to honeybees. Based on research from the 1970s, scientists thought that the mites fed on the bee version of blood. It’s called hemolymph (HE-moh-limf). But the mites are actually after the fat, proposes Samuel Ramsey. He is an entomologist or insect specialist. He researched this idea while at the University of Maryland in College Park.
That insight might help people create mite-killing medicines to feed to bees, says Aaron Gross. He’s a toxicologist at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. While there are mite-killing pesticides, beekeepers could really use some new choices, he says. One big reason: Some groups of mites don’t die when treated.
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