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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Acid vapor helping contain honeybees' mite infestation

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kona plant quarantine supervisor Clare Okumoto, left, checks Kona honey hives.

Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture photos

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The varroa mite sucks on bees, often exposing them to fatal infections.

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Hawai'i beekeepers are making progress battling the devastating varroa mite with a pesticide approved late last year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The local field office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Statistics Service reported that a treatment using vaporized formic acid in bee colonies is giving beekeepers some momentum in their fight against the mite.

The varroa mite is a parasite that kills or weakens honeybees. The formic acid kills a large percentage of the mites, helping beekeepers control the infestation, the USDA report said.

The report estimated that Hawai'i honey production rose 6 percent last year to 950,000 pounds from 900,000 pounds in 2008, when beekeepers reported that extreme dry weather and the varroa mite hurt production.

Last year's production increase was due to an improved average yield per colony. The number of honey-producing colonies was unchanged at 10,000.

The average price producers received for honey was $1.63 per pound last year, up 3 percent from the year before. Combined with the production increase, the total farm value of Hawai'i honey last year was $1.5 million, up about 8 percent from $1.4 million a year earlier.