Beth Roden: Mites cause bee issues

April 3, 2013 

Mites cause bee issues

The March 29 article “Soaring honeybee deaths sound new alarms on malady” by Michael Wines correctly identifies a problem facing beekeepers today – how to manage the declining health of their honeybee colonies while satisfying the nation’s growing agricultural demands for pollination services. Although the article does not directly implicate one major cause of declining bee health, it provides unwarranted attention to neonicotinoid insecticides, while virtually ignoring other more important factors.

The poor health of some of the colonies mentioned in the article was clearly recognized during the late summer of 2012, as beekeepers were battling a combination of drought conditions and rapidly increasing infestations of Varroa mite populations. High Varroa populations are well-known causative factors of colony decline, especially as the beekeepers prepare their hives for the winter season. Colonies weakened by poor nutrition or lack of water are especially susceptible to the influence of this parasitic mite.

Large-scale field studies in Europe and in North America have shown that poor bee health correlates extremely well with the presence of Varroa mites, but there is almost no correlation with the presence of pesticides in general or neonicotinoids in particular.

Beth Roden, Durham

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