T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Mite (Varroa mite) Varroa destructor

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Arachnida
Subclass: Acari
Order: Parasitiformes
Suborder: Mesostigmata
Family: Varroidae
Genus: Varroa
Species: V. destructor
Binomial name: Varroa destructor
Common name: Varroa mite

Varroa destructor is an external parasitic mite that attacks the honey bees Apis cerana and Apis mellifera. This Asian mite jumped from the eastern hive bee (Apis cerana) to the western bee (Apis mellifera). The disease caused by the mites is called varroosis. The Varroa mite is the parasite with the most pronounced economic impact on the bee keeping industry. is reducing the number of bees in managed hives as well as feral or wild colonies. Varroa destructor has an impact not only on the bee keeping industry, but it is also potentially damaging for crop pollination.

In New Zealand Varroa is widely distributed throughout the entire North Island, including many offshore islands in the Hauraki Gulf and in South Island it has migrated as far south as Canterbury and the West Coast.

Varroa destructor can only reproduce in a honey bee colony. It attaches to the body of the bee and weakens the bee by sucking hemolymph (fluid, analogous to the blood in vertebrates). In this process, RNA viruses such as the deformed wing virus (DWV) spread to bees. A significant mite infestation will lead to the death of a honey bee colony, usually in the late autumn through early spring.
Adult female mites are fairly large about 1.1 x 1.6mm. They have a hard reddish to dark brown body that is flattened and oval in shape. Varroa mites are transferred to new bee colonies on the bodies of adult bees. The mite will then leave the bee and crawl into a brood cell. Once in the cell the mite submerges itself into the larval food at the bottom of the cell and start feeding on the prepupa. The mite will then lay its eggs. The eggs will hatch and go through two juvenile stages before becoming adults. The adult mites will leave the cell in the young bee when it emerges.

A video of the Varroa mite

An adult female of Varroa destructor, a mite parasiting the domestic bee (honeybee - Apis mellifera). Dorsal view, on the head of a bee nymph.

Varroa mite rides on the abdomen of a worker bee.

Varroa mites on honey bee pupa

A low temperature scanning electron micrograph photograph of V. destructor on a honey bee host