Dr Alessandro Cini and colleagues first looked at how honeybees respond to mites, in Sardinia, Italy. When honeybees are infested with the mite Varroa Destructor, they stay away from the central part of the hive (where the Queen and Young bees are) in order to protect the hive from collapsing.
The foraging bees perform dances in order to distract the mites away from the food sources and the brood. The social distancing that happens when the ‘dance' takes place prevents the spread of the mites through the colony.
“Foragers are one of the main entrance routes for the mites,” says Dr Cini. “So the more they stay away from the brood and the young individuals, the better it is in terms of preventing the spread of the mites within the colony.” The scientists collected the data from videos of the hives – looking at one hive that was infested with mites, and another that wasn’t.
The scientists found that, when the groups within the colony were infested, they got an extra supply of food and they were inspected and groomed more than the groups that weren’t infested.