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Varroa destroys Apis mellifera
(originally published in Bees for Development Journal 79)
Beekeeping in Kashmir Valley
F A Shah, Apiculture Development Officer, Kashmir, India
During 1986 Thai sacbrood, the dreaded bee disease, caused by Thai sacbrood virus, exterminated almost all the Apis cerana bee colonies in hives in Kashmir. This necessitated the introduction of Apis mellifera. Since then the exotic honeybee has been harbouring Varroa sp. However, Varroa symptoms remained suppressed due to the simultaneous infestation by another ectoparasite, Tropilaelaeps clareae. Both mite species reproduce and multiply on brood. The migration of bee colonies from Kashmir (a temperate zone) to sub-tropical areas during the winter period facilitated their uninterrupted multiplication. Tropilaelaeps clareae is a fast reproducing mite. It remained dominant. Beekeepers resorted to chemical treatments particularly with sulphur to control this mite. Whereas Varroa sp remained untreated. This gave enough opportunity for the Varroa mite to multiply enormously, culminating in an epidemic in July 2005. In 2005, 35,000 out of 40,000 Apis mellifera bee colonies had died by the end of December.
Beekeeping in Kashmir has again been reduced to zero level, as was recorded in 1986 when Thai sacbrood killed all the Apis cerana colonies. Experience gained during the last 20 years has shown that Apis mellifera has been almost a failure in collecting surplus honey from Isodon rugosus, a bushy plant flowering from mid-August to mid-October, probably due to meteorological conditions. This plant was extensively exploited by the indigenous honeybee Apis cerana and constituted a major source of honey production in Kashmir.
Similarly Apis mellifera has shown its inability to defend its nests against hornets. As a result, a good number of bee colonies are lost annually. Varroa and Tropilaelaps clareae have never proved a serious threat to Apis cerana and beekeepers have never treated their bee colonies with chemicals to control these mites.
In view of this, the revival of Apis cerana beekeeping is being given serious thought by the beekeepers of the Kashmir Valley.
Korean haplotype of Varroa
Honeybees in the State of Jammu & Kashmir have been infested by the Korean Haplotype of Varroa. The impact has been devastating reported scientist Dr M K Khushu with 80% of the honeybee colonies in the State completely destroyed during October to December 2005, with irreparable loss to bee farmers.
This is the first time the State has been affected. Colonies in the neighbouring States of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh had also been infested. Dr Khushu explained that the infestation is caused by a mite which is a new species of Varroa destructor identified by Dr Denis Anderson.
Source: Bee Culture February 2006