Since 2008 the University of Hawaii has been on the forefront of studying the disappearance of Hawaii honeybees. In the a recent issue of Science
journal, findings from the University of Hawaii Honeybee Project were published giving insight into the dynamics of this global phenomenon.
The disappearance of honeybees has come to be known by the term Colony Collapse Disorder, of which the direct cause is unknown. Reports of colony collapse worldwide began in 2006 with much concern. Studies into this phenomenon began soon afterwards and offered insight into the problem.
The disappearance of Hawaii honeybees
The most widely recognized factor is the spread of a pest known as the Varroa Mite. The Varroa Mite was found on Oahu in March, 2007, and later on the Big Island in April, 2008. This pest carries disease and feeds off the bees, which as the recent study shows is linked to colony collapse in Hawaii and Deformed Wing Virus.
Causing physical deformations and immunosuppression, honeybees are more susceptible to other parasitic diseases causing colony populations to crash.
Shortly after the discovery of this devastating pest in Hawaii, the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources founded the UH Honeybee Project.
Pairing with other institutions like Sheffield University in the United Kingdom, and the USDA Bee Lab in Louisiana, the UH Honeybee project is an active part in a global movement to understand and solve this crisis.
Looking to the future
Their initial goal was to help the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture research and control the Varroa outbreak, but has now expanded to include: honeybee colony health and management, agricultural pollination needs and the development of pollinator “friendly” farms, and education and outreach to beekeepers and growers.
Researchers are looking for ways to stop the mites from reproducing and spreading to more colonies of bees. As of late 2011, Varroa Mite has not been found on Maui or Kauai.
For more information, visit the University of Hawaii’s Honeybee Project website