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  • Hawaii and the Varroa Mite: A case study
    August 14, 2017 Scott Derrick

    Hawaii and the Varroa Mite: A case study

    An archipelago of volcanoes in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the supposed birthplace of our old two-term president, the state of Hawaii is the most isolated population center in the world. For a heavenly stretch of years, it had miles and miles of virtually uninterrupted ocean to buffer it against the spread of pests and diseases swarming the planet elsewhere. Then came globalized man. Whether by accident (as with the coffee borer beetle) or the wayward good intent of conservationists (as with the mongoose), our bungling ways have since played havoc with the island’s natural biodiversity.

    As much can be said for the varroa mite – the feature pest of our weekly blog series this past fortnight, and the rampant terror laying low domestic and feral honey bee colonies worldwide.

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  • Varroa Destructor, Honey Bee Reaper: More than a mite concerning
    August 14, 2017 Scott Derrick

    Varroa Destructor, Honey Bee Reaper: More than a mite concerning

    It is the fear scuttling about in every beekeeper’s heart. It is the ruination of livelihoods, and the grief of families. It is disease. It is death. It has, in the last fifty years, come at a hair’s-breadth away from world domination.

    It is Varroa destructor, the mite of bee evil.

    There is no greater threat to honey bee colonies than varroa. Even nosema comes second-place (just). Reddish-brown and crab-like, this ectoparasitic hive invader was not too long ago a relatively innocuous critter, supping on the fluids of the Asian honeybee (Apis cerana) in its native territory of the east. In the mid-20th century however, returning west on the backs of honey bees originally imported to Hong Kong, the mite stole across the oceans through trade shipment routes. Across Europe, Africa, India and – first reported in Maryland in 1979, and, after an eight-year lull, Wisconsin – the United States, the mite not only spread at an alarming rate. It was found to have an incredibly pernicious affinity with the honey bee (Apis mellifera) – mankind’s sweetest friend.

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