Show article content
Print article content
Hide article content
Print article content
Varroa destructor in Papua New Guinea?
Dr Denis Anderson, the world expert on Varroa mites from CSIRO Australia, visited us in late May 2008. He went through some of our Apis mellifera colonies and saw that mites were present and breeding. We have had Varroa jacobsoni for 8-10 years. Thinking that it was Varroa destructor, he took some samples for identification. After DNA analysis we were told that it is not Varroa destructor. However what is really worrying us is that these mites are breeding in both the worker and drone cells. Varroa jacobsoni do not breed in Apis mellifera colonies. We are unsure at this stage whether it is a new species of Varroa, or Varroa jacobsoni that has adapted well and changed its breeding habit.
This has given us an opportunity to approach our National Government and our donor friends: Australia have responded favourably. We have put into place a Provincial Task Force team who will monitor the situation and report to the National Task Force.
Beekeeping in Papua New Guinea has been fortunate not to have some of the exotic honey bee diseases common in other countries, such as American foulbrood. Chemicals have never been used in our hives and we have maintained our status as organic honey producers.
With the current mite threat, we fear that this status will be affected. If we are to resort to the use of chemicals we would do so as a last option. I would like, on behalf of more than 1,000 beekeepers to ask our friends through BfDJ around the beekeeping world who are experienced with Varroa destructor:
How do you control the mites without using chemicals?
What IPM practices do you use?
Is there anybody who would like to share experiences with us?
Can someone assist us with training?
Tella Loie, Provincial Beekeeping Officer
Varroa research in Zimbabwe
We have not held an event due to economic meltdown in Zimbabwe and shortages of fuel, money and food. However, Varroa research continues from its start in November 2004 with 250 colonies being monitored, 12 randomly selected colonies sampled weekly, approximately 600 bees from the brood area of each colony collected, and Varroa per 100 bees recorded. Only two Varroa control methods are employed - removal of all drone brood and floor board removal. This research was funded by the New Zealand High Commission in Zimbabwe until they left about two years ago. No other funding is available. However, research will continue for as long as possible.
We would like to set up a research project looking at Varroa numbers in pure Apis mellifera scutellata colonies and Apis mellifera scutellata/Apis mellifera litorea hybrid colonies. I suspect the hybrids are more Varroa- tolerant than the pure Apis mellifera scutellata - probably partly due to cell size and length of life cycle. We have both these types of bees here, but as yet have not found pure Apis mellifera litorea in Zimbabwe.
E M F Schmolke, Honorary Bee Research Officer
Varroa spreads to Hilo Island, Hawaii
Manoa beekeeper Michael Kliks first identified Varroa in April 2007. During the last 17 months the mites spread between islands: from Ewa to Mililani to Waimanalo. Now, the Department of Agriculture has discovered Varroa mites in a bee swarm trapped near Hilo harbour. “Now Varroa is on the Big Island, it is a disaster for agriculture”, says Michael Kliks.
“When the infestation was discovered on Oahu we implemented an inter-island quarantine to prevent transfer of live bees, dead bees and used bee equipment between islands”, says Lyle Wong, Department of Agriculture. We have been trying our darndest not to let the bees move”.
Kliks calls it a state emergency: “There is going to be a huge economic impact. Coqui frog is bad, nettle caterpillar is bad, but nothing compares to what Varroa will do to our food supply, including avocados, guava, pumpkins, and zucchini. If we lose pollination by bees, agriculture will suffer, we will have low grade crops and farmers will give up”.
Over the last year, bee colonies on Oahu have dropped from 1,500 to 300 and Kliks fears the same will happen on the Big Island. "It is very easy to criticise the Department, that we did not do enough, but I am not sure what more we could have done”, says Wong. Agriculture quarantine teams plan to destroy all feral bee colonies within an 8 km radius of Hilo bay. The State says the Varroa mite is a serious problem but does not warrant an emergency declaration by the Governor.
Source: Brianne Randle, www.khon2.com/news
First published in BfD Journal 89 (December 2008)