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Mite threatens to wipe out Manitoba’s honeybees, entomologist says

Click to play video: 'Mite threatens to wipe out Manitoba’s honeybees, entomologist says' Mite threatens to wipe out Manitoba’s honeybees, entomologist says
Imagine finding a tick as big as a dinner plate stuck on you. That horrible image is the equivalent of what Manitoba’s honeybees are dealing with, a local entomologist says, as they battle an explosion of varroa mites – Jul 26, 2022

Imagine finding a tick as big as a dinner plate stuck on you. That horrible image is the equivalent of what Manitoba’s honeybees are dealing with, a local entomologist says, as they battle an explosion of varroa mites.

The University of Manitoba’s Jason Gibbs told Global News that the mite, introduced to local bee populations in the 1980s, has led to devastating colony loss this year.

According to a study by the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, a shocking 57 per cent of colonies in this province didn’t survive the winter — the highest rate in the country.

“The European honeybees that we have don’t have the ability to manage them on their own, so without management by beekeepers, the mite will decimate all their colonies,” Gibbs said.

“Through a lot of active work, beekeepers can keep those losses down to 10-20 per cent — if they’re lucky — but otherwise the mite will just wipe all the colonies out.”

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Read more: Industry in peril: Manitoba bee farmers suffer big losses due to bad weather

Gibbs said the mite, combined with recent weather issues, has created a “perfect storm” of trouble for these bees, with a drought last year leading to a slow spring, altering the timeline for bees to come out and feed.

“Those two combinations came together and caused this dramatic loss,” he said.

“In terms of significance, for a beekeeper, it’s huge. It costs a lot of money to maintain these colonies, and now what they have to do is sort of split the colonies they still have and try to build up the numbers again.

“It may take a couple years for honeybees to rebound. From an environmental perspective, honeybees aren’t native — so it’s actually the native pollinators that we should be more concerned about, because those don’t have people who are actively managing them and keeping their populations sustainable.”

There is, however, some good news. Helping the bees isn’t all that difficult.

Gibbs said the easiest thing Manitobans can do is just plant flowers.

“You can do things that are fairly low-impact. Mow your lawn less. Don’t worry about all the weeds, let those bloom.

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“Don’t spray insecticides, herbicides — if you do that, you’ll contribute to pollinators.”

Click to play video: 'Bees and mites: U of M entomologist responds to decimation of honeybee colonies' Bees and mites: U of M entomologist responds to decimation of honeybee colonies
Bees and mites: U of M entomologist responds to decimation of honeybee colonies – Jul 26, 2022

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