Hawaii is a chain of many islands, and of the seven inhabited by people and bees, only two have Varroa mites. I know, in beekeeper minds, that quickly conjures an image of paradise and perfectly healthy booming colonies with no Varroa! Having worked with bees on all those islands since 2010, I can report with confidence that the bees on these mite-free islands fall far short of this fantasy. Although there are no Varroa, these bees are a great example of how the many years of breeding and selection have provided us with the important traits beekeepers rely on, like gentle temperament, large populations and brood nests, reduced swarm tendencies, large honey stores and winter survival. Although they were abundant and successful in Hawaii’s conditions, the bees throughout the Hawaiian Islands were not, on average, large, gentle, productive colonies. They were mostly small, mean colonies of A. mellifera mellifera, brought by ship in 1850’s, and then naturalized in the jungle without beekeeper selection or improvement. The first time I met with a beekeeper as the Hawaii state apiarist, a bee met me over 50 yards from the undisturbed colony and immediately stung me in the face! This was a hobbyist, whose colonies were captured from the jungle. He likely didn’t know any different, but his bees had traits in stark contrast to the selected stocks I was used to throughout the USA and Canada. To be fair, they were also very different than the bees kept by Hawaii’s queen producers, which were painstakingly selected and improved by breeders such as Gus Rouse at Kona Queen. (See old ABJ article).
Cameron Jack Grew up watching his grandfather work 150 hives in southern Nevada. This was his gateway-bee experience. Learning and watching – being taught about honey bees. Today, Cameron is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Florida, Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Cameron received a one-year Costco/PAm fellowship award in 2016 to conduct research at the University of Florida where he is completing his graduate work. The subject of his research: Varroa. More specifically, his focus has been on breeding Varroa in vitro in the laboratory.
North Dakota is home to over half a million honey bee colonies, and is the number 1 honey producing state in the US for the past 30 years. According to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, in 2017, North Dakota produced 33 million pounds of honey valued at over $65 million. The vast expanse of land, as far as the eye can see, offers a dense and rich clover forage, a favorite of the honey bee. It is therefore no surprise that more beekeepers want to bring their bees to the Peace Garden State each year. In contrast, corn and soybean are gaining popularity in the agricultural landscape of North Dakota, replacing some of the more traditional grain crops of the past. As a result of these two opposing landscape factors, beekeepers in North Dakota report an increase in honey bee colony density and a decrease in forage for the pollinator. Zac Browning of Browning Honey Co. warns that North Dakota is the ‘Last Best Place for Bees’.