Researchers are working hard to figure out how to save the bees, and new information is helping to provide some insight into the problems that bee colonies are facing. The most serious threat to honeybees across the globe is a small mite called the Varroa mite. And these mites are using chemical camouflage to gain access to honeybee colonies.
It turns out that the Varroa mite has developed a pretty sophisticated form of camouflage. When mites enter a society that is comprised of thousands of bees, it’s important that their trickery is spot-on to avoid blowing their cover. Researchers at Michigan State University now understand how they do this, and it’s pretty impressive. They communicate through compounds that are released from hair-shaft glands, and these compounds (hydrocarbons) allow the mites to blend in with the colony by making them smell like the bees. These mites can also modify their hydrocarbons in a way that allows them to change their camouflage and blend in with different sub-colonies, or even completely different species of honeybees.
But it’s not over for the bees just yet. It seems that bees are adapting to be able to detect these camouflaged guests. Who will win this arms race? Read more about this research here, and let’s hope that the information gained by this new research will help scientists figure out a way to help the bees!