Honey Bee Threat: Not-So-Sweet Mites and Bees with Zachary Huang


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Dec 08 2020 32 mins   7

It's hard to imagine a world without honey, much less all the fruits they pollinate. That's one reason Zachary Huang's research into honey bee stressors is so important.

Listen in as he teaches listeners about

  • Primary bee stressors, including parasites, pathogens, pesticides, and agricultural transportation,
  • In-depth information regarding their primary stressor, the Varroa mite and how it harms the honey bee, and
  • Honey bee characteristics that make them especially vulnerable to these stressors.

Zachary Huang is an associate professor in the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University. He's also an avid photographer of all-things-honey bee, including the plants they pollinate. Honey bees face many stressors and are on the decline. Researchers across the country are trying to figure out why.

Dr. Huang tells listeners about the
Varroa destructor mite, which hitchhiked from Brazil or Asia on bees into North America. These purplish-red mites are about the size of a pinhead and feed on the fat body of the bee. They are an obligate parasite, meaning they are dependent on the bee for their life cycle. However, their bite transmits several viruses, which weaken and affect the bee anatomy and eventually lead to the death of the bee and increased hive vulnerability.

These types of mites are actually responsible for the death of 35% of honey bees a year. Honey bee social behavior increases mite transmission likelihood. They can be transmitted from drifting, if a bee goes to the wrong nest and brings a mite back, or if a new colony takes over another colony's site.

Researchers have tried several methods to combat these mites, from chemical methods to Dr. Huang's own method of "zapping" the drones and mites, killing them with heat so that infected drones and mites die and the colony is free to recover. Other research explores utilizing honey bee behavioral adaptations like grooming behaviors and hygiene, working on breeding bees with increased habits that will decrease the mite population in their hives.

For more about his work and to see some of his photography, see bees.msu.edu.

Available on Apple Podcasts: apple.co/2Os0myK