Download high resolution image here.
M. B. Bode collected this bee with mite attached from a Varroa destructor
infested Apis mellifera
hive at 35°48'11.8"N 105°26'26.6"W
at 8400 ft. elevation, Rociada 7.5’ quadrangle
, on Rincon Montoso near the Sapello River, Santa Fe National Forest, San Miguel Co., NM. The bee was taken from a newly hived population from BeeWeaver Apiraries
, Navasota, TX.
One sees in this first image the back half of the mite's dorsal shell protruding from between two terga
. Other specimens collected have the mite inserted between two sterna
. The mite blends in with either fairly well. Honey bees defend themselves from V. destructor
by removing mites from each other(1)
with their mandibles. The mite avoids this by mimicking the bee's features to make detection more difficult. This includes the bee's chemical signature(2)
. I have found no references discussing visual and tactile mimicry in V. destructor
, but one sees in the linked images similarities in the mite's dorsal shell and the bee's terga and ventrites in their shape, reticulated surface texture, spine-covered setae, and in having a yellower shade of brown near the posterior boundary.
One difference between the appearance of the terga and the mite's dorsal shell is that the bee's setae are longer and thicker, and the spines along their length are longer and more numerous. Note, though, the mite presumably adapted to mimic its natural host Apis cerana
. It was only introduced to A. mellifera
by human activity(3)
. One sees in a side-by-side comparison
of the two bee species that A. cerana
gaster setae are much shorter and cover less area. Setae spikes cannot be resolved in these images, though.
The mite's color is also a darker shade of brown than the terga. Brown is a combination of red and green on the RGB scale
. The difference implies a higher percentage of red in the reflected light spectrum of the mite. However, bees do not see red
. The second image is a crop of the first from area around the mite, but with red removed (leaving mostly green). This image suggests that the mite and terga appear to have very similar color patterns seen by other bees. The camera does not record UV, though, which bees do
The specimen was soaked in water, and mite then removed and mounted for the rest of the linked images.
is another mesostig ectoparasite of a social hymenopteran that appears to avoid removal by mimicking the host's gaster:
This image is from a Helicon Focus
processed stack of 249 images with a 7.7 µm step taken with a Mitutoyo M Plan APO 10×/0.28 ∞/0 mm microscope objective
+ Nikon 135 mm F2.8 AIS telephoto lens + Nikon D810 camera (magnification 6.75×; technique described here