How Mites Serve As Maids for Bees

Mites actually do a lot of good which certainly we rarely think of, but here is a situation where sweat bees have their own personal maid service courtesy of the minuscule little creatures! Cleaner fish (remoras and wrasses) are known to receive similar such attention in the ocean, but this is the first time that a cleaning service has been documented on land!

Sweat beePhoto: Larry Page

Researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the University of Texas noticed that some sweat bee nests they were studying had mites and that more young bees died in the nests that didn’t. Sweat bees make cells for their young in rotten logs by tunneling into them and then feed their young on pollen and nectar.

3d rendered mitePhoto: Eraxion

“When we took away the mites, the bee nests got dirtier. When we added mites, fungus counts went down. It is pretty clear that the mites clean up the cells where the young are growing,” said Natalia Biani, a graduate student at the University of Texas, Austin. This is not all one sided though; the mites get free room and board as well as free transportation on the bees to new nests. Now if only I could find someone willing to work on the same basis for my house!