Since the Varroa mite invaded New Zealand several years ago, and Marlborough in 2007, the wild bee population has declined rapidly. The effect of this has been reduced pollination of crops, both commercially and in the home garden, leading to poorer returns.
Varroa mites are part of the Arachnid family, which also includes spiders. The adult is chocolate brown, shiny and the size of a pin head and only the mature female travels. They do this by hitching a ride on a bee from an infected hive, maybe dropping off in a flower to await their next flight, where they'll attach to the next bee to arrive. They are carried to the next colony, where they drop off and find the brood nest and get into a larval cell.
Varroa can only reproduce on honey bee brood, laying eggs after the brood cell is sealed to pupate. Here, the female Varroa mite lays her 5-8 eggs eggs. The first egg to hatch is usually male, the rest female. These feed on the pupa, then after the 2 maturation phases have passed and they become mature, the varroa mate in the cell, the females leaving to continue the cycle and any immature females and the male then die.
The effect of these mites on honeybee populations (worldwide) has been enormous, as bees suffer colony collapse disorder (CCD) due in part to varroa infestation and the viruses they carry, along with mistreatment of hives, pesticides and other unknown factors. Whole colonies weaken and die out on a large scale. Feral bee populations as well as domestic hives have been decimated, so vigilance by bee-keepers is vital to control the mite. This, unfortunately, means that honey bees are now reliant on human intervention, as the Varroa mite spreads and with it, introduces various viruses to the weakened colony, including deformed wing virus.
Pollination of crops and fruit trees is severely reduced in the wake of honey bee population reduction. It's estimated that up to 80% of food crop pollination is managed by bees, so on this scale, the Varroa is an invader on a huge scale. Funds need to be put into the management of it so the food crop industry can be sustained.
But you can help by bringing bees into your own neighbourhood! We all need bees if we want our hard earned gardens to flourish,and we all know that home-grown is healthier, tastes best and saves us money, while also being kinder to the planet. We at Urban Bees want to help you get things in balance, and we will manage your hive or hives throughout the year, do all the work while you reap the rewards! We control the Varroa, so our hives are healthy and productive, so your garden will be, too. Talk to your neighbours, as they may be keen to share in a hive with you, and to help find a suitable site for the hive or hives. Then we'll deliver your new garden focal point, or we can blend it in somewhere more discretely.