Honey bees have to contend with a lot of threats in QLD:
- American Foulbrood (a bacterial infection, spread from colony to colony – a death sentence)
- European Foulbrood (similar to the above, but stronger colonies can overcome it)
- Land clearing (less food for bees means less bees)
- Small Hive Beetle (a brood and honey/pollen eating insect that is resistant to a bee’s sting – can quickly overtake a weaker hive)
- A myriad of viruses and illnesses caused by cold weather, damp and fungus
- Pesticide use (yes, insecticides kills bees – have a look at your tomato dust etc)
- Irresponsible beekeepers
All of the above have been big challenges for beekeepers all over the world. But there is one thing that has contribute to catastrophic losses world wide – and for many years Australia has been the ONLY continent in the world free from it.
The Varroa Mite.
In the “Beekeeping Workshops by TEK” I find myself commonly speaking to students about how we will look back on times like the 2015-2016 season as being ‘Before Varroa Mite was here’. I thought I would have had at least another few years of saying that – but this very real threat may be attacking the bees much sooner than that.
The Varroa Mite is a parasitic mite that feeds on the blood of young, developing bees. Often (whilst in pupae) the bee will suffer several mites feeding on them at once. The mite cripples colonies, but weakening newly hatched bees with deformities, viruses and immobility. The mite is terrible. The only treatments available for it make me shiver.
“The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has movement restrictions for bee risk items following the detection of varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni) on Asian honey bees in Townsville. To move restricted items, please refer to the Movement Control Order and read about moving bees and hives.”
Hopefully this turns out to be an isolated incident that is controlled. But even if it is, it’s a reminder of how close we may be to having our beekeeping world turned upside down. The Varroa destructor is the second strain of mite – worse than the Varroa jacobsoni. They both spell disaster.
Let’s hope the pesky bees don’t have another threat added to their list any time soon.
Stay warm with the August winds on their way – the Malieta Honey bees are enjoying their Winter mats!
(Image Source from a UK based apiary)