The honey bee tracheal mite, Acarapis woodi (Rennie), is an internal parasite of adult honey bees, Apis mellifera L. Due to its small size (143-167 mm) and the destructive sampling methods required to examine mites inside the honey bee tracheae, the life history of this mite is poorly known. Delfinado-Baker and Baker (1982) reviewed the data reported by other researchers on the biology, dispersal behavior, and feeding habits of mites in the genus Acarapis. There are four species of Acarapis described but they are very similar and thus are best differentiated based on where they occur on the host bee.
Tracheal mites live in the breathing or tracheal tubes of adult honey bees and only move outside the host to infest other bees. Honey bee tracheal mites preferentially disperse to adult worker honey bees younger than three days of age (Gary et al. 1989) with female mites primarily dispersing at night (Pettis et al. 1992). In short-lived summer bees only one generation per host is possible but in the winter multiple generations may be reared in each bee (Pettis & Wilson 1996). Tracheal mites are associated with the death of honey bee colonies in the winter when greater than 30% of the bees within a colony are infested.
Reseachers at the Systematic Entomology Laboratory and the USDA's Bee Research Laboraory are collaborating on studies aimed at improving our understanding of the basic biology of this important honey bee pest. For more information about this mite, please see the Bee Research Laboratory's Honey Bee Tracheal Mite page.
Various life stages of A. woodi collected from
honeybee treacheal tube (larva, male, female, egg)
A. woodi female in honeybee tracheal tube
Delfinado-Baker, M. and E. W. Baker 1982. Notes on honey bee mites of the genus Acarapis Hirst (Acari: Tarsonemidae). International Journal of Acarology. 8: 211-226.
Gary, N. E., R. E. Page, and K. Lorenzen. 1989. Effects of age of worker honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) on tracheal mite (Acarapis woodi Rennie) infestation. Journal of Experimental and Applied Acarology. 7: 153-160.
Pettis, J. S., W. T. Wilson, and F. A. Eischen. 1992. Nocturnal dispersal by female Acarapis woodi in honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies. Journal of Experimental and Applied Acarology. 15:99-108.
Pettis, J. S. and W. T. Wilson. 1996. Life History of the honey bee tracheal mite (Acari: Tarsonemidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 89:368-374.