The parasitic mite Varroa destructor is a major threat to the European honey bee Apis mellifera. Beekeepers apply the miticide thymol directly within the hives to kill this parasitic mite. Thymol is repellent to bees and causes them to ventilate the hive, yet its impact on bee hygienic behaviours that prevent the spread of diseases has never been studied. We measured the efficiency of colonies at removing dead adult bees, uncapping dead pupal cells and removing dead brood in two miticide-free Australian environments where the mite is absent. Thymol increased the uncapping and removal of dead brood by 24 to 36% after 48 h at both locations but had no effect on the removal of dead adult bees. The increased removal of brood could enhance the effect of thymol on V. destructor, especially if bees preferentially remove cells infected with the mite.
- Apis mellifera