Bacteria detected in the honeybee parasitic mite Varroa destructor collected from beehive winter debris


The winter beehive debris containing bodies of honeybee parasitic mite Varroa destructor is used for veterinary diagnostics. The Varroa sucking honeybee hemolymph serves as a reservoir of pathogens including bacteria. Worker bees can pick up pathogens from the debris during cleaning activities and spread the infection to healthy bees within the colony. The aim of this study was to detect entomopathogenic bacteria in the Varroa collected from the winter beehive debris.

Methods and Results

Culture-independent approach was used to analyze the mite-associated bacterial community. Total DNA was extracted from samples of 10 Varroa female individuals sampled from 27 different sites in Czechia. The 16S rRNA gene was amplified using universal bacterial primers, cloned and sequenced, resulting in a set of 596 sequences representing 29 operational taxonomic units (OTU97). To confirm presence of bacteria in Varroa, histological sections of the mites were observed. Undetermined bacteria were observed in the mite gut and fat tissue.


Morganella sp. was the most frequently detected taxon, followed by Enterococcus sp., Pseudomonas sp., Rahnella sp., Erwinia sp., and Arsenophonus sp. The honeybee putative pathogen Spiroplasma sp. was detected at one site and Bartonella-like bacteria were found at 4 sites. PCR-based analysis using genus-specific primers enabled detection of the following taxa: Enterococcus, Bartonella-like bacteria, Arsenophonus and Spiroplasma.

The impact of study

We found potentially pathogenic (Spiroplasma) and parasitic bacteria (Arsenophonus) in mites from winter beehive debris. The mites can be reservoirs of the pathogenic bacteria in the apicultures.


Hubert J., Erban T., Kamler M., Kopecky J., Nesvorna M., Hejdankova S., Titera D., Tyl J., Zurek L. Bacteria detected in the honeybee parasitic mite Varroa destructor collected from beehive winter debris. Journal of Applied Microbiology. Accepted Article, doi: 10.1111/jam.12899