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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 22, 2010

Destructive bee mites spread

By Chelsea Jensen
West Hawaii Today

Beekeepers are trying to find ways to coexist with varroa mites as the destructive parasite continues to spread across the Big Island.

Varroa mites arrived on the Big Island in 2008, about a year after the mite was found on O'ahu, said Volcano Island Honey Co. founder and owner Richard Spiegel, adding that the mites haven't been found on any other islands.

The mite weakens a bee's immune system, allowing it to fall prey to diseases.

Spiegel found the mites in a few colonies on Jan. 1 at his farm in Āhualoa, and is now experimenting with toxin-free ways to get rid of the pests.

"They came a lot earlier than anyone expected. They are moving across the island faster than expected," Spiegel said.

Pohakea Mauka resident Debbie Chang said she's just waiting for mites to show up in her hives.

"It's inevitable, and it will be devastating, she said. "We're going to have to learn how to coexist with these mites, because it can't be eradicated."

With three hives in Pa'auilo, more than 50,000 honey bees strong, Chang said she can produce enough honey to share with family and friends.

While mites have yet to infest her hives, she said, she has been to many lectures and workshops to educate herself on varroa prevention, treatment and maintenance.

Bees are responsible for pollinating nearly a third of the world's food supply, Spiegel said. Without bees in Hawai'i, produce such as avocado, lilikoi and macadamia nuts would be affected.