A feeding protocol for delivery of agents to assess development in Varroa mites

A novel feeding protocol for delivery of bio-active agents to Varroa mites was developed by providing mites with honey bee larva hemolymph supplemented with cultured insect cells and selected materials delivered on a fibrous cotton substrate. Mites were starved, fed on treated hemolymph to deliver selected agents and then returned to bee larvae. Transcript levels of two reference genes, actin and glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), as well as for nine selected genes involved in reproductive processes showed that the starvation and feeding protocol periods did not pose a high level of stress to the mites as transcript levels remained comparable between phoretic mites and those completing the protocol. The feeding protocol was used to deliver molecules such as hormone analogs or plasmids. Mites fed with Tebufenozide, an ecdysone analog, had higher transcript levels of shade than untreated or solvent treated mites. In order to extend this feeding protocol, cultured insect cells were incorporated to a final ratio of 1 part cells and 2 parts hemolymph. Although supplementation with Bombyx mori Bm5 cells increased the amount of hemolymph consumed per mite, there was a significant decrease in the percentage of mites that fed and survived. On the other hand, Drosophila melanogaster S2 cells reduced significantly the percentage of mites that fed and survived as well as the amount of hemolymph consumed. The feeding protocol provides a dynamic platform with which to challenge the Varroa mite to establish efficacy of control agents for this devastating honey bee pest