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Research Update: A comparison of Varroa destructor (Acari: Varroidae) collection methods and survivability in in vitro rearing systems

Members of the UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory conducted a research project that led to a publication on Varroa destructor survival in in vitro (in the lab) rearing systems. Below is a summary of the research as well as a link to the full publication.

Background: Varroa destructor is a major stressor of the western honey bee because it can transmit deadly viruses that lead to colony collapse. These mites are collected for use in lab-based research projects either via a sugar shake method or a carbon dioxide method. The sugar shake method involves dislodging Varroa from adult honey bees using a combination of powdered sugar and shaking. The carbon dioxide method involves using carbon dioxide to immobilize honey bees, followed by gentle shaking of the bees, causing Varroa to fall through a mesh filter for collection.

Purpose: The purpose of this research was to compare the survivability of Varroa after being collected using the sugar shake and carbon dioxide methods.

Key Findings: Varroa survived best in the lab when collected using the sugar shake method (80% survival) rather than the carbon dioxide method (34% survival).

Significance: Varroa destructor is a common parasite that must be managed to maintain healthy honey bee colonies. The ability to collect live samples of Varroa allows researchers to 1) successfully rear the parasite in vitro; 2) study it’s biology more closely, and 3) develop better control methods for the mite. This research aids those who wish to conduct future research on the parasite in vitro. It also allows researchers to develop better management practices that beekeepers can use in the future.

For more details, read the publication here: https://bioone.org/journals/florida-entomologist/volume-104/issue-1/024.104.0103/A-Comparison-of-Varroa-destructor-Acari–Varroidae-Collection-Methods/10.1653/024.104.0103.full

This blog post was written by UF IFAS Honey Bee Lab volunteer Brian Chiang and revised by Amy Vu and Dr. Jamie Ellis

Noble, N.I.I., Stuhl, C., Nesbit, M., Woods, R., Ellis, J.D. 2021. A comparison of Varroa destructor (Acari: Varroidae) collection methods and survivability in in vitro rearing systems. Florida Entomologist, 104(1): 13 – 17. https://journals.flvc.org/flaent/article/view/121981.