News Release – NR08-18 – August 22, 2008

Posted on Aug 22, 2008 in 2008 News Releases, News-Releases

HONOLULU – The Hawai`i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) has detected varroa mites on bees that were trapped in Hilo this week.  In response to this detection, the department is setting up an Incident Command System on the Big Island to coordinate and manage rapid response teams that are being dispatched to Hilo.

On Wednesday, August 20, bees caught in a swarm trap near Hilo Harbor near the Hilo Seaside Hotel were collected and frozen for testing.  The tests were conducted today and detected four varroa mites from that trap. This is the first detection of varroa mites on the Big Island, which has the most of the state’s major queen bee export businesses.

HDOA has been placing bee swarm traps around airports and maritime ports around the state to detect varroa mites, which are serious honey bee pests that occur almost worldwide.  In April 2007, varroa mites were reported by a beekeeper in Manoa on Oahu and since then, HDOA has been monitoring swarm traps around ports as an early detection method in case any varroa mites hitchhike to neighboring islands.

HDOA staff is utilizing the Incident Command System, which is widely used for other emergency responses, to respond to this incident.  Teams of personnel from HDOA’s Plant Quarantine Branch and the Plant Pest Control Branch on Oahu will arrive on the Big Island tomorrow to supplement staff in Hilo.  The response plan calls for the immediate destruction of all feral bee hives within a five-mile radius of Hilo Bay.

HDOA is asking residents in the bay area to report any backyard or feral bee hives to the State’s toll-free Pest Hotline, 643-PEST (7378).

In accordance with the department’s response plan, staff will be setting out more swarm traps and sampling managed and feral hives for varroa mites in Hilo.  They will also be meeting with beekeepers on the island and providing them with sticky traps containing miticides to place in their hives to kill any varroa mites.

Since the detection of varroa mites on Oahu last year, HDOA staff have been destroying bees around Honolulu International Airport and Honolulu Harbor to try to reduce the chances of the transport of bees from Oahu.  They have also been setting swarm traps.

The varroa mite is reddish brown in color with an oval and flattened shape.  It is about the size of a pin head and can be detected with the unaided eye.  Varroa mites have piercing and sucking mouthparts and feed on the blood of honey bee adults, larvae and pupae.  The mites weaken adult bees and cause emerging bees to be deformed. Varroa mites are spread from hive to hive through bee contact.

The varroa mite’s natural host is the Asian honey bee, a species that is not extremely affected by the mite.  The mite spread through Europe via Russia.  In 1987, the varroa mite was discovered in North American bee colonies in Wisconsin and Florida.  By 1988, the mite was detected in 12 U.S. states and has since spread throughout the continental U.S.  In 2000, the mite was discovered in New Zealand.

More information on varroa mites is available on the department’s website at:


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