The Varroa mite is having a significant impact on the health of the honey bee

According to the latest winter loss survey by the British Beekepers Association, the decline of honeybee populations across the UK recently hit 20% in some parts. However, last year in the US declines of between 40 and 50% were reported. These levels of decline are unsustainable.

A significant cause of honey bee population decline is the Varroa Destructor mite. This microscopic creature originated in Asian bee populations but spread to the West following experiments to increase honey yields using Asian bees.

Once a colony is infected, the mite feeds off the blood of the honey bee with the effect of significant damage to the wings and abdomen of each affected honey bee within a short period. The bee is significantly weakened, is unable to fly and is of no further use to the colony.

If more than five mites are present on each bee it is likely the bee will die. Typically, it takes 3-5 years before the bee colony is weakened to a critical stage – at which point there is a rapid decline in the adult population and the entire colony dies.

Varroa infestation is spread by a variety of means including: weakened hives being attacked by robber bees from other hives; drifting of one colony of bees into another by accident; migrating bees moving to robber hives; swarming of an infected colony to another location; mistakes made by beekeepers themselves in the management of individual hives.

A key strategy of Friends of the Honey Bee is to fund important scientific research into the Varroa mite and how to combat it. Learn more here.

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Friends of the Honey Bee. Protecting the honey bee, preserving the future