We measured significant variation in the instantaneous growth rates for varroa mites, Varroa destructor (Anderson & Trueman) from 1993 to 2002 in Baton Rouge, LA. Mite population growth was monitored in colonies of honey bees, Apis mellifera L., with queens from miscellaneous U.S. sources that had not been selectively bred for varroa resistance. Mite populations were measured at the beginning and end of short field tests that started in the late spring of each year. Analyses of multiple regression showed that only the first two of the following regressors were linear predictors of r, the instantaneous growth rate: 1) percentage of reproducing female mites, 2) proportion of total mites in capped brood, 3) mortality of mites in brood cells, 4) growth of the bee population, 5) capped brood area at the end of a test, and 6) duration of the test. Analysis of commonality indicated that the percentage of reproducing female mites explained ≈26% of the total variation in r, and the proportion of total mites in capped brood explained 6%. The joint expression of both variables accounted for another 4%. Thus, residual error reflected most of the total variation in r, which suggested possible climatic or environmental effects on mite growth. The lowest growth rates occurred in three consecutive years of drought in Louisiana. Measures of ambient temperature and relative humidity correlated to growth of mite populations among different years. Reduced growth rates were probably the result of diminished reproductive rates by varroa mites during periods of hot and dry weather.
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