The latest "Catch the Buzz" missive from Bee Culture brings the following depressing/distressing news to our in-box, via Honolulu Star Bulletin article by Rod Thompson:
HILO » The state Department of Agriculture is warning Big Island residents not to eat wild honey collected within five miles of Hilo Harbor during the next three weeks while it attempts to eradicate varroa mites.
The mites are tiny, spider-like parasites that infect honeybees.
Since the mites were first detected on the Big Island on Aug. 20, officials have made several unsuccessful attempts to eradicate them, said Lyle Wong, head of the state Plant Industry Division.
Following those failures, the department is now setting out 200 baiting stations with low concentrations of an insecticide called fipronil, he said.
Fipronil has been widely used since 1996 in many crop and noncrop applications, Wong said. To use it to kill infected bees, the Department of Agriculture had to declare a special 15-day "crisis exemption" from restrictions on fipronil by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Wong said.
If bees near the harbor are not killed, the parasitic mites could spread to the entire island and cause a crash in the wild bee population.
In New Zealand and parts of the United States, varroa mites have caused the disappearance of more than 90 percent of wild bees.
A great deal of agriculture depends on bees for pollination. If wild ones are gone, professional beekeepers can provide services with "managed hives," but that adds cost to agricultural production, Wong said.
Commercial beekeeping in Hawaii, which includes honey production and the raising of queen bees for sale around the world, is valued at $4 million per year.