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Insights into the metabolism and behaviour of Varroa destructor mites from analysis of their waste excretions

  • Francisco Posada-Florez (a1), Daniel E. Sonenshine (a1) (a2), Noble I. Egekwu (a1), Clifford Rice (a3), Robert Lupitskyy (a3) and Steven C. Cook (a1)...

Abstract

Varroa destructor mites (Acari: Varroidae) are harmful ectoparasites of Apis mellifera honey bees. Female foundresses of wax-capped pupal host cells and their daughters feed on host fluids from open wounds on the host's integument. Details of V. destructor mite nutrition are forthcoming, and little is known about the potential physical effects on hosts from mite feeding. Chemical analysis of waste excretions can infer details of animals’ nutrition. Here, chemical analysis by high-performance liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS) of mite excretions showed that the purine content of V. destructor waste consists of guanine with traces of hypoxanthine. Traces of uric acid and caffeine were also detected. Concentrations of guanine attenuated over time and excretions collected from senescing mites did not contain detectable guanine. Non-reproducing individual female mites maintained in vitro, housed in gelatin capsules and provided a honey bee pupa, deposited an average of nearly 18 excretions daily, mostly on the host's integument rather than on the capsule wall. The weight and volume of excretions suggest mites can consume nearly a microlitre of host fluids each day. Compounded over 10 days, this together with open wounds, could lead to substantial water loss and stress to developing pupae.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Steven C. Cook, E-mail: steven.cook@ars.usda.gov

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Current address: Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32608, USA.

Footnotes

References

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