Varroa!

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Varroa destructor

Speaking of the attractiveness of various arthropods, I had an argument with some of my beekeeping students last summer over whether Varroa mites were cute. I happen to think cuteness is a quality independent of economic effects. And Varroa destructor- all roly-poly and pleasingly pudgy- is pretty cute for a mite.

Of course, this little arachnid almost single-handedly brought down the U.S. beekeeping industry. Varroa feeds on the haemolymph of developing bees, damaging the insects and transmitting viruses. If left untreated an infestation can destroy a hive. So I can sympathize with the opposing view.

Still. Look at those stumpy little legs and tell me there’s nothing at all adorable about Varroa.


photo details:
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 100, F/13, 1/250 sec, diffused twin flash
mites photographed on drone pupae removed from bee colony

21 thoughts on “Varroa!”

  1. Like rats and mice, I agree that they can be both cute, and a huge problem at the same time.

    Speaking of which, I had thought that the mites had killed my hive (again!) last winter, which made me sad. But just yesterday, my wife pointed out that what I had thought was a dead hive, suddenly had bees coming and going! And checking it with the stethoscope[1], the hive was pretty fairly humming with activity inside! So I can afford to feel a bit charitable towards the mites at the moment.

    [1] I’d mislaid my stethoscope over the winter, so when I checked the hive during our midwinter thaw I tried just pressing my ear to the side to listen. I didn’t hear anything, and nobody was coming out to make cleansing flights, so I just assumed that they had died. But, my bare ear evidently doesn’t work nearly as well as a stethoscope.

  2. Cute or not, the shots are very nice. Can I ask whether your lens was at full extension for these, and how far the subject was from the lens itself? I’ve tried using a bellows for subjects of similar size, and wind up having to nearly smash them against the lens.

    1. That’s the MP-E at full 5x, and cropped in about 30%. This still gives me a couple centimeters of working distance, enough to get some light in on the mites.

  3. They look like little blood-sucking terrorist teddy bears!

    They could probably contend with the velvet mites as cutest mite.

  4. I’ve had similar arguments with an archanologist friend. Yes, I believe these mites are cute. But then I call almost every living thing cute or beautiful more as a sign of endearment and interest.

  5. Alex, would you let me use a smaller version of one of these photos over at Skepchick? (Suitably linked and copyright noted, of course!) I think it could make an interesting discussion about what cute is.

  6. Hi Alex

    Definitely cute. Glad someone else sees the cuteness in pest species :-). I think the small hive beetle is very cute too. I love their antennae. Then again, I think ALL insects are cute, even cockroaches have their charm.

    Cheers
    Alex

    1. Maybe you insect gazers think these mites are cute and entertain your vacuous opinions on this site. Meantime while you airheads dream others are trying to find a solution to this problem.

      [response- I don’t usually block commentators, but unprovoked name-calling by someone who failed to comprehend the original post is a perfect candidate for a rare banning. One more like this, Greg, and you’re out. -AW]

  7. Pingback: … Y LO LLAMAN DESPOBLAMIENTO (Diagnóstico de Varroa) – Desde la Piquera

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