Parasites & Predators That Prey Upon Honey Bees

Photo of varrioa mite attached to honey bee

The health of beehives is a critical aspect of modern beekeeping. As European honey bees have been transported around the world by humans, they have come into contact with alien illnesses and parasites to which they have little resistance. Unfortunately, many of these pests were unintentionally transported into the United States and have quickly spread across the country. Because beekeepers travel colonies around the country regularly, these diseases continue to spread among honey bee populations.

Transmission Of Parasites To Honey Bees

The varroa mite transmits from hive to hive by interacting with bees from neighboring colonies, even colonies that are hundreds of miles away. The varroa mite moves on the back of the host bee to neighboring hives during natural and aided reproduction and robbing, where it multiplies and spreads.

Both adult honey bees and their offspring are preyed upon by the parasite. Female varroa can also live outside of the brood cells by adhering to adult bees. The parasite, on the other hand, exclusively reproduces in the honey bee’s sealed brood chambers. Varroa female mites enter and crawl to the bottom of the brood cells shortly before they are capped, protecting themselves from the bees who tend to the brood by hiding under the larvae. They begin by submerging themselves in the liquid brood food. Once this is gone, the Varroa mite feeds on the bee larvae directly.

Varroa Mites

Parasite feeding on developing beeVarroa mites (Varroa destructor and Varroa jacobsoni) are tiny red-brown honey bee parasites. Varroa mites can feed and live on adult honey bees. Still, they prefer to feed and reproduce on larvae and pupae in the developing brood, causing honey bee deformity and weakness and transmitting a variety of diseases.

Colonies with a low infection have few symptoms, but symptoms become more noticeable as the mite population grows. Heavy Varroa mite infestations can take 3–4 years to build up, resulting in a scattered brood, crippled and crawling honey bees, decreased flying performance, a lower rate of return to the colony after foraging, a shorter lifetime, and worker bees with dramatically reduced weight.

An irregular brood pattern, sunken and chewed cappings, and larvae slumped in the bottom or side of the cell are all symptoms of parasitic mite syndrome, also known as parasitic mite sickness. This decreases the honey bee population, the supersedure of queen bees, and colony collapse and mortality. 1Go To Source missouri.edu -“Honey Bees as Pollinators, Their Habitats and Products”

Tracheal Mites

The tracheal mite (Acarapis woodi) is a tiny internal mite of the honey bee respiratory system that can infect queens, drones, and worker bees. The tracheal mite infects and reproduces within the honey bee’s tracheae (breathing tubes) and feeds on the honey bee’s hemolymph (blood). Infection lowers the capacity of air passage to the wing muscles and inhibits the honey bee’s ability to breathe. As a result, honey bees become frail and unwell, working less and living shorter lives.

When Tracheal mite infestation is paired with other pressures (such as sickness, a lack of pollen or nectar, etc.), the colony can die. Once a honey bee colony has been contaminated with Tracheal mite, it will remain infested for the rest of the year. The effects become more noticeable in the winter and early spring, contributing to high colony losses in extreme cases. 2Go To Source beeaware.org.au -“Tracheal mite”

Predators Of The Honey Bee

Black bear that feed on honey bee hivesBears, skunks, and hive beetles are the most common predators of honey bees. Skunks are insectivores, which means that if they find a hive, they will often return every night to assault it and devour a significant number of bees. Honey bee remains outside the hive entrance are an excellent indicator of skunk attacks, as skunks devour the bees to extract their fluids and then spit out the solid pieces. While raccoons and opossums are less likely to prey on honey bees, they do occasionally assault hives in the same fashion.

Bears are dangerous predators who wreak havoc on hives. These animals may even shatter the hive to get at the honey and bees that are within. Bears, like skunks, will return to a hive unless human intervention, such as electric fences, prevents them from doing so.

The little hive beetle is another prominent honey bee predator. The larvae of this insect lay their eggs on a honey bee comb to devour the comb, pollen, and larval honey bees. Adult beetles also consume honey bee eggs.

Humans Hurting Honey Bees

Humans have had a significant impact on the earth’s ecosystems, which directly impacts many pollinator species. Whether it’s pollution, pesticides, or habitat loss, habits of the human race directly affect honey bee populations. Follow along below to learn more about how humans altered the lives of bees.

Pollution Hurting Bees

Artificial light and chemicals introduced into the air, water, and soil also modify the ecosystem’s conditions for pollinators, putting them in jeopardy. Insects are attracted to artificial light, which draws them away from their natural habitats. Their frantic movement in the presence of lights exhausts them and makes them easy prey for predators in that setting.

Pesticides Killing Bees

Pollinators are suffering greatly as a result of chemical pesticides and herbicides. These chemical breakthroughs are intended to eliminate insects and plants that people don’t want in their gardens, lawns, or farms. On the other hand, Herbicides can damage native plants and flowers that bees rely on for food, and both pesticides and herbicides can enter pollinators’ bodies, making them sick or killing them.

Honey Bee Habitat Loss

Natural habitats are being disrupted by people’s ability to convert landscapes from meadows and fields to cities, suburbs, and farmlands. Honey bees rely on flowering plants, bushes, and trees for food and shelter, but they rapidly disappear.

A Final Look At The Threats To Bees

Bee colonies are attacked by a variety of pests, parasites, and predators. Because they have lived in the wild for so long, the bees have developed their own protection mechanisms. Pest, parasite, and predator management activities by beekeepers complement what the bees have established. As a result, gaining a better understanding of the invaders and how to regulate them will aid in ensuring a more robust and healthier bee colony.

Remember that the health of the colony has an impact on honeybee productivity. Weak colonies are unable to produce optimally and are vulnerable to pests, parasites, and predator invasion. On the other hand, a more substantial bee colony can defend itself and will almost definitely produce more honey and produce stronger progeny.

 

Sources:

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  2. “Tracheal Mite « Bee Aware.” Beeaware.Org.Au, beeaware.org.au/archive-pest/tracheal-mite/#ad-image-0. Accessed 5 Aug. 2021.
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  6. Choi, Charles Q. (30 November 2013). “Found! First Known Predator To Lure Prey By Mimicking Flowers”. LiveScience. Archived from the original on 30 June 2015. Accessed 5 Aug. 2021.
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  8. Jansen; et al. (2012). “Grayanotoxin Poisoning: ‘Mad Honey Disease’ and Beyond”. Cardiovascular Toxicology. Accessed 5 Aug. 2021.