The thorn in the honey bee’s side is actually the varroa mites on their backs. There are many myths surrounding honey bee health in Canada, but truthfully the biggest factor affecting their health are these parasites.
What Are Varroa Mites?
Varroa mites are parasites that feed on the blood of honey bees and can weaken entire colonies by spreading dangerous pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, to as many as 60,000 honey bees living in one hive. Once a hive is infested with the varroa mite, the mites spread very quickly throughout the colony leading to exponential losses, particularly during winter when the hive is most vulnerable. The varroa mites came into Canada from the United States in 1980 and the industry saw devastating losses of 200,000 colonies, but the honey bee numbers have stabilized and are higher than they’ve ever been.
How Do Beekeepers Manage Varroa Mites?
Prevention is the most effective way to stop a varroa mite infestation in a honey bee hive. Beekeepers closely monitor their hives for varroa mite populations and take further steps to get rid of the varroa mites if necessary. There are pesticides specifically for varroa mites that beekeepers can use, and revolutionary new products such as gates that remove varroa mites off the honey bee’s back as they enter the hive.
What Can You Do To Help Honey Bees?
I think one of the most important things we can do to help honey bees is to learn about honey bee health, as well as to stop spreading misinformation and myths about honey bees. Direct people to the Bees Matter website to learn about honey bees to the to get the facts. Honey bees play a big role in feeding us, without them many of our food crops would not be able to grow. Pumpkins, apples, blueberries and cucumbers are just a few of the many food crops that we would not be able to enjoy without the hard work of the honey bee.
Honey bees actually aren’t native to Canada, they came here from England, so we need to help feed the honey bees too so they can feed their hives. There are specific flowers that honey bees love that help promote quality honey bee nutrition and health. You can sign up to get a free pollinator-friendly Buzzing Gardens seed kit sent to you to plant. The honey bee populations are thriving and on the rise in Canada, but we still need to support the honey bees because they support us!
Disclosure: This blog post is sponsored by Bees Matter and compensation was received. I am responsible for the contents of, views and opinions expressed on this blog and not the sponsor mentioned above.