, Volume 90, Issue 5, pp 349-354
Date: 27 Mar 2003

Ultrastructure and bacterial infection of wounds in honey bee (Apis mellifera) pupae punctured by Varroa mites

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The damage to western honey bee, Apis mellifera, colonies caused by the originally Asian ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor is mainly a consequence of the infestation of host bee pupae. In the capped brood cell, female mites puncture the host's integument at preferred sites in order to suck haemolymph. Due to repeated feeding by the mother mite and her progeny, these perforations are kept open until shortly before the imaginal moult of the bee. Thereafter scarring takes place, thus preventing microbial infection after the adult bee has emerged from the protected environment of the sealed brood cell. However, colonies of various bacteria were found in the open wounds of about 15–30% of all inspected host pupae with an abundance depended on the level of host brood cell infestation by the mite. The small punctures of the pupal integument are difficult to detect but, by vital staining with trypan blue, the wounds can be visualised. The ultrastructure of the pupal wounds, the bacterial colonies and the scarring process are documented by a series of scanning electron micrographs.