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  • Rights: University of Waikato
    Published 6 June 2012 Referencing Hub media

    Watch varroa mites (white juveniles and brown adults) on honey bees and learn how they spread viruses that kill bee colonies. Dr Mark Goodwin of Plant & Food Research shows hives being treated to control the mite. Just as humans rely on honey bees for the pollination of many food crops, bees now rely on humans for their own survival.


    Varroa is a mite that feeds on honey bees. It came into New Zealand about 10 years ago, and the problem is it means honey bees can’t survive without human beings treating the mites. If you don’t treat them, the colony will be dead in about a year. So all the wild colonies in trees and things, they’ve all died because there’s no one to treat them and unless we treat all our hives we have now twice a year, they would all die as well.

    The varroa itself doesn’t kill the bees, but what it does is it spread viruses. What varroa does is a great vector – it feeds on one bee and then spreads the virus to the next bee and the next bee, and then the virus kills the colony.

    Honey bees can no longer survive without human beings, which is a really interesting thing. That because we’ve managed to spread these diseases around the world and continue to do so, if we’re not here, they’re not here, which is a really strange relationship. We were always dependent on them for the pollination they did, but they’re now dependent on us as well.

    The problem is varroa builds up resistance to the chemical controls we’re using. So around the rest of the world, most of the chemicals no longer work. In

    America every year, about 30% of the colonies die – they can’t even keep them alive with chemicals now. In New Zealand, we still can, but that’s going to change unfortunately.

    Science will find an answer and it will go away, so if you want to do something nice for bees, get a beehive and look after it.

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