The common honey bee (Apis Mellifera) we all know and see in our gardens. They are a social bee and just about all our honey and related products come from this bee. The bee is about 12mm long and has a single sting. Once the bee stings you it will fly away and die. The honey bee on average produces around 50kg of honey per hive per year but they can produce up to 200kg of honey depending on the availability of the nectar flow. Bees are extremely important. Seventy percent of our food that we consume is pollinated by bees.
VARROA MITE (Varroa Destructor)
The Varroa mite is one of the biggest threats to the Australian honey bee industry. The mite is 1mm in diameter and is spreads from bee to bee, often over large distances.
The Varroa mite thrives within the brood cells of the developing bees; this is where it breeds and mates. The mite feeds off the developing bee by sucking the hemolymph (blood/liquid) from the immature developing bee.
When the bee finally emerges from the brood cell the bee is usually very week and stunted/deformed which leads to eventual death of the bee and the colony as a whole. The adult Varroa mites’ escape at the same time as the bee emerges and attaches its self to an adult worker bee and continues to feed off the adult bee. For the past few years the infected hives have been treated with a pyrethroid insecticide to kill the mites but the mites have developed a resistance to the insecticides. Beekeepers are now using formic acid to treat infected hives. But at the end of the day it all adds extra cost to the bee keeper and even more stresses/determent to the bees.
COLONY COLAPSE DISORDER (CCD)
Colony Collapse Disorder results in the bees leaving their hive and not returning.
No one knows for sure why this is happening. There are many reasons why this could be;
In 2008 over one million hives in USA were reported dead from CCD.
SMALL HIVE BEETLE (SHB)
A single small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) is 5-7mm long and is dark brown to black. Aethina tumida was first found in Australia in 2002.
It enters the hive and lays eggs in the brood and honey. The beetles’ larvae feed off the honey/brood. The honey is then subjected to contamination and starts to ferment. Once the beetles’ larvae have finished feeding, the larvae leave the hive and pupate in the ground, then emerge as beetles. The cycle continues. The Beatle is known as a real pest and can kill a weak or non-aggressive bee hive. Thankfully, beekeepers have developed many ingenious ways to trap and kill the beetles. However this beetle still remains a big problem.
ASIAN HONEY BEE
The Asian honey bee is a big concern to Australia as they are the hosts of the varroa mite.
Due to their highly aggressive nature, low honey production and their constant swarming habits, this bee species cannot be used for commercial farming purposes.
It is extremely important that we build up native bee hive numbers.
Everyone can help by buying a hive or related products or donating money to stinglessbees.com. This will go towards the conservation of the bees. It won’t solve all the world wide bee problems but it will lessen the impact if we are prepared in Australia.