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Researchers expand wild honeybee colonies data gathering effort statewide

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Nov 4, 2009

A UH researcher takes a sampling from a honeybee hive in the wild.
A UH researcher takes a sampling from a honeybee hive in the wild.
Due to an overwhelming response from the O‘ahu public, the wild honeybee colonies project will be expanding its data gathering effort to the neighbor islands. University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa researchers are soliciting the public’s help in locating wild honeybee colonies on Maui, Kaua‘i and the Big Island through December.
The UH Honeybee Varroa Project—directed by Dr. Mark Wright and Dr. Ethel Villalobos of theDepartment of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciencesin the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources—is conducting state-wide study on viruses in honeybees transmitted by the varroa mite. Dr. Stephen Martin, researcher from the University of Sheffield in the UK, and his lab are also collaborating with UH Mānoa on the statewide project. Martin is an expert in the dynamics of honeybee viruses and varroa mites.
Due to its impact, the number of wild honeybee colonies has decreased dramatically, impacting pollination of many crops grown in Hawai‘i. Historically, thanks to geographical isolation, bees in Hawai‘i have been relatively free of pests and diseases that have spread throughout the mainland. But in March 2007, the varroa mite (Varroa destructor) was discovered on Oahu and later, in August 2008, was detected on the Big Island.
The varroa mite feeds on the haemolymph (blood) of developing larvae and adult bees. Parasitized larvae weaken or may die of the impacts of being parasitized. Varroa infestation is often associated with the spread of bacterial diseases and viruses. The most common of these viruses is the deformed wing virus, which can severely reduce the foraging population of a colony. UH researchers will be collecting and sampling honeybees for these viruses.
Anyone seeing a wild honeybee colony on Maui and Kauai is asked to contact the UH Honeybee Varroa Project at 956-2445 or Anyone seeing a wild honeybee colony on the Big Island is asked to contact Maria Diaz-Lyke at (808) 887-6183 at the Kamuela Extension Office.