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These Mites Infiltrate Bee Colonies By Imitating Bees’ Scent

posted: 06/03/15
by: Danny Clemens
Varroa mites
Andrew Huang/Michigan State University

The Varroa mite is a nasty little creature -- it infiltrates a bee colony, affixes itself to a bee and sucks out its hemolymph (the bee version of blood), spreading lethal viruses to the bee in the process. The mite is at least partially to blame for the recent 42% decline in bee populations throughout the United States.

In a new study from Michigan State University, researchers have finally figured out how exactly the small parasite is able to infiltrate the highly socially advanced bee colony: by imitating the smell of a bee.

According to study lead author Zachary Huang, the Varroa mite mimics the bee by altering its hydrocarbons, so-called "chemical colognes" that help different bees identify each other. The mites can easily change their scent in a matter of days, flip flopping between not only different colonies of bees, but even different species.

"They are essentially getting through the door and reaching the inner sanctum by using bees' own complex communication codes against them," Huang said in a news release.

Huang's research is published in the latest edition of the journal Biology Letters.

Click here for more information from Michigan State University

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