Scientists from Nottingham Trent University recently undertook a research project hoping to understand how to manage and eradicate Varroa destructor mite infestations in the beehive.
Ultra-sensitive tools were used to record the repeated knocking of the 1mm creatures. This they do by abruptly jolting their bodies.
Such tiny parasites, which are a threat to honeybees, send strong vibrational pulses to the surface where they live, according to a new study.
Scientists ponder whether the vibration emitted could be for the purpose of environmental probing, where the mite exploits the material’s response to the signal to examine its surroundings.
These researchers believe they are the first group in the world to capture such vibrational waveform from a mite of any species, which can also be heard as an audio track.
The mites cannot see or hear and only weigh in at about half a milligram. They live in honeybee colonies and feed on adult bees and larvae. According to scientists, they pass on a variety of viruses to their hosts and play an important role in the destruction of colonies.
The vibration that is caused by the mite’s jolting takes only 50 to 90 microseconds to transmit the vibration. It is a very short and rapid production.
This unrelated 4:30-minute video shows testing for mites using powdered sugar by LSU AG Center:
Harriet Hall is a researcher at the university’s School of Science and Technology. She said that if a mite becomes dislodged from its honeybee host, this jolting helps it orientate back to a bee, especially since it can neither see nor hear.
Mite jolting is a commonly observed behavior that is energetically demanding to produce. This is another indication that the mite produces this vibration intentionally, and for its own benefit.
Dr Martin Bencsik is a physicist at the university. He added that the vibrational pulse coincides with a mite’s abrupt body motion. This was never seen before this team captured and showcased their work.
He says they have characterized a new behavior in this species, a discovery that is so fundamental as to have numerous and unexpected repercussions.
The researchers are launching new investigations to clarify the purpose of the vibrations.
They hope that a deeper understanding of the function will let them manipulate the behavior to better manage and potentially eradicate the mite from honeybee hives.
The study also involved the University of Warwick. The study was published in the journal Entomologia Generalis.