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Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Varoa mite - a possible solution

For those of you unfamiliar with the beast, the varoa mite is a bee parasite and can wipe out the honey and pollination industries of a nation if nothing is done to combat it. Recently it has arrived in the island nation of New Zealand and even more recently has passed from North Island to South Island. Below is suggested a solution to the problem.

Some bees are more or less resistant to varoa mite. It is believed that their grooming habits and/or their hive hygiene regime are responsible. Whatever the reason, the most resistant bee is probably the African Killer bee. Yes the Killer bee. I mention it by its pejorative name to get it out of the way right at the beginning. Despite it name and bad reputation, this is the bee that most of Africa, with the exception of a few enclaves, uses as a domestic bee. Yes he is a pretty tough customer. He has to be to survive in Africa and I certainly wouldn't mess about with an African hive without full protective equipment and a smoker in hand. I would also never take off my protective clothing until I was well away from a hive I had stirred up. African bees will pursue their tormentor for a good long distance before giving up. Oh! and never go near an African bee hive with an operating electric lawn mower. It sends them crazy. On the bright side, the African bee will produce about a third more honey at any given location than the tame bees that most of the world uses.

Fortunately the African bee will hybridize with the Italian bee and here is where a possibility opens up. How about this scenario.

New Zealand is long and narrow. Re-queen a few hives at the north end of North Island with Africans. African queens can be ordered off the shelf from South Africa. This is what they all use over there. These queen will convert the hives to pure African bees. In the fullness of time the drones from these hives will interact with other domestic queens and produce hybrids. From here on nature and the selective process that every bee keeper does as a matter of routine takes over. The varoa mite itself will select out any hives that don't have varoa resistance while the bee keeper, as he has always done, will eliminate really fierce hives.

Incidentally, the bee keeper may find it an advantage to have a bit of African in his bees. It would take a brave vandal to mess with such a hive. As the varoa resistant genes spread down North Island, the bee keepers will be selecting for a reasonable level of gentleness and good productivity. By the time the genes have reached South Island, the Varoa problem should be over and our horticulture industry should be back on track. As an added bonus,honey production could well have improved.

And just a final thought. If we completely converted to the African Bee would that be so bad. Yes, they take more work to handle and you have to wear full protective clothing but our entire agricultural industry is dependent on bees. Fortunately we have lots of bumble bees but they can't fully replace honey bees. Most of Africa uses this bee. We should be able to too.


John Harding UK said...

Hello to you all in New Zealand, my name is John Harding having kept honeybees for thirty years, I have not treated my bees with any chemicals for 18 years as I have found the answer and solution for bees to control if not erradicate Varoa completely without using chemicals and its natural so its free, that should please most beekeepers, no not just the free part, however the answer is so simple.


William Hughes-Games said...

Hi John
Let us in on the secret. I'm sure there would be incredible interest.

John Harding said...

Hi William,

I`ve just found your blog again.

Apologies for not replying earlier.

My email is

I will send you aa email copy of my book that will be on the bookshelves in the new year.