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Kokua Line

Mites and beetles get the blame for isle honeybees’ disappearance

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Question: A few years ago we had at least 20 honeybees at any one time at our Kailua home. Now we see maybe one or two on a good day. My brother-in-law in Kaneohe is experiencing the same thing. What is happening to our honeybees?

Answer: Millions of honeybees have been disappearing across the nation since at least 2006 because of the mysterious "colony collapse disorder," the cause of which continues to baffle scientists.

In Hawaii, however, the disappearance of honeybees is linked to the parasitic varroa mite, which we described in 2007 (see hsblinks.com/2k9), and, more recently, to the small hive beetle.

So far, varroa mites have been found on Oahu and the Big Island, while the small hive beetle was discovered just this year on the Big Island.

Colony collapse disorder "is not here in Hawaii," but varroa mites are responsible for spreading diseases that have been linked to the disorder, said Darcy Oishi, chief of the state Department of Agriculture’s Biological Control Section.

The problem is that researchers have yet to pinpoint the cause. In human terms, "colony collapse disorder is like AIDS, and we’re at the point when we didn’t know that the real causative agent for AIDS was HIV," Oishi explained.

Meanwhile, although there is no data on this yet, "anecdotally," honeybees in the wild — such as in your yard — appear to be making a comeback, he said. For a period, they "weren’t really present in the wild on Oahu."

But varroa mites will continue to be "a major problem" for beekeepers in Hawaii. "It won’t ever go away," because there are methods only for controlling the mites, not eliminating them, Oishi said.

Control entails beekeepers utilizing management techniques: going into hives and periodically applying a miticide, he said.

Basically, varroa mites will "really change the nature of beekeeping in Hawaii — beekeeping used to be passive, and now it has to be more of an active thing," Oishi said.

"There’s a statement, ‘People used to be bee havers; now people need to be truly beekeepers.’"

In June the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was undertaking a survey of honeybee pests and diseases in 13 states, including Hawaii, to help scientists determine what’s causing the bees to disappear.

Question: I recently saw a TV ad about a local company that takes old beds and recycles them. I haven’t seen the ad recently and was wondering whether you could provide a contact.

Answer: Ross’s Appliance & Furniture in Honolulu operates the Green Bed Co. See greenbedcompany.com/default.asp or call 841-7336.

 

MAHALO

To a couple who saved me from drowning on Sunday, July 18. I was alone in my kayak near Chinaman’s Hat when I flipped, became tangled up and was near drowning. But a couple in a small white boat with a blue top saved me, literally dragging me and my orange kayak onto their boat. They called ahead to the rescue squad, which picked me up at Heeia Harbor and took me to Castle Hospital. One of the rescue squad attendants took the couple’s name and information, but the piece of paper it was written on was lost in all the commotion. I think the man’s name was Brian. I would like to personally thank them for saving my life, as well as get my kayak back. I hope that they see this and call me. My number is 853-9970. — Martin McCormick, Kahaluu

 

Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail kokualine@staradvertiser.com.

 

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