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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 4, 2007

$650,000 is appropriated to attack mite killing bees

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

A sharp tap separates dead bees from live ones. The dead honey bees were attacked by mites that spread from hive to hive.

Photo provided by Michael Kliks

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Lawmakers are planning to spend $650,000 during the next year to study, control and mitigate a recently discovered bee mite infestation on O'ahu.

The appropriation is included in a House bill recently passed by the Legislature. The money was requested by the Hawai'i Beekeepers' Association, which is worried about the threat posed by the mite to the state's $1.1 million honey industry and the state's wild bee population.

Varroa mites were detected on bees in three abandoned hives by a beekeeper last month. The varroa mite is considered one of the most serious honey bee pests and is found across much of the world. Hawai'i had been one of the few places where the mite had not been detected.

It is not known how the mites were introduced into O'ahu, though infested ships and shipments of bees through Hawai'i are possible sources.

O'ahu beekeepers are conducting an islandwide survey of honey bee colonies and are treating infested managed bee colonies.

The appropriation was requested by Michael Kliks, president of the Hawai'i Beekeepers' Association.

"Our lives as beekeepers and the lives and crop management procedures of all farmers whose diversified crops depended on honey bees for their adequate pollination were changed forever 18 days ago when honey bee colonies in Makiki Valley were found to be infested with the parasitic (mite) varroa destructor," Kliks wrote in an e-mail to lawmakers last month. "We all need to work together and to work fast to understand and contain the spread of this pest."

The varroa mite is reddish brown in color, with an oval and flattened shape. It is about the size of a pinhead and can be detected with the unaided eye.

The mites have piercing and sucking mouthparts and feed on the blood of honey bee adults, larvae and pupae. The mites weaken adult bees and cause emerging bees to be deformed. The mites are spread from hive to hive through bee contact.

The $650,000 will be spent on training, pesticides and to reimburse beekeepers for mite mitigation costs among other measures, said Neil Reimer, plant pest control bureau chief for the state Department of Agriculture. The $650,000 appropriation is unprecedented in size, he said.

"This is an awful lot of money for one pest," Reimer said.

Reach Sean Hao at shao@honoluluadvertiser.com.