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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 3:22 p.m., Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bee mite control program to include poisoning wild hives in Hilo

Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

The state Department of Agriculture plans to poison wild honey bee hives in Hilo as an emergency measure to stop a growing infestation of bee-killing varroa mites, and warns the public against eating honey from wild hives over the next three weeks.

The department is using a "crisis exemption" to deploy the insecticide fipronil at about 200 baiting stations within a five-mile radius of Hilo Harbor.

Agriculture department officials consulted with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the plan for several months and sought the crisis exemption to EPA law after other methods of baiting and manual destruction of feral hives failed to stop the spread of mites.

In recent weeks, collections of bees with varroa mites have been increasing within the Hilo area, which officials said means mites are being spread from undetected feral hives.

"The EPA crisis exemption is critical if we have any hope of eradicating varroa mites from Hawai'i Island," said Lyle Wong, administrator for Agriculture Department's Plant Industry Division. "None of the other methods we have researched and attempted have been successful in ridding the island of this pest."

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com.