Varroa mites are nasty little parasites that destroy honey bee colonies. Ever since their arrival in the western honey bee population some fifty years ago it had been assumed that they weakened bees by sucking their blood and spreading harmful bee viruses.
Not so, it appears. Earlier this year Samuel Ramsey and colleagues at the University of Maryland showed that varroa mites feed on the bees’ fat bodies.
Fat bodies are roughly the insect equivalent of our livers; organs that are essential for detoxyfying chemicals (including pesticides), regulating the immune system and storing food reserves.
The mites bite into the underside of the bees, squirt digestive juices into the fat bodies, then suck up the pre-digested ‘liver’.
Yuck! It’s enough to put a bee off her food!