Varroa Destructor Feeds Primarily on Honey Bee Fat Body Tissue and Not Hemolymph

Samuel D. Ramsey, Ronald Ochoa, Gary Bauchan, Connor Gulbronson, Joseph D. Mowery, Allen Cohen, David Lim, Judith Joklik, Joseph M. Cicero, James D. Ellis, David Hawthorne, and Dennis vanEngelsdorp

Varroa destructor causes considerable damage to honey bees and subsequently the field of apiculture through just one process: feeding. For five decades, we have believed that these mites consume hemolymph like a tick consumes blood, and that Varroa cause harm primarily by vectoring viruses. Our work shows that they cause damage more directly. Varroa externally digest and consume fat body tissue rather than blood. These findings explain the failure of some previous attempts at developing effectively targeted treatment strategies for Varroa control. Furthermore, it provides some explanation for the diverse array of debilitating pathologies associated with Varroa that were unexplained by hemolymph removal alone. Our work provides a path forward for the development of novel treatment strategies for Varroa.

Full article available here: PNAS Varroa Destructor Paper (Jan 15, 2019)