Storms’ impact on our bees
The destructive winds of Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricane Gonzalo, which hit Bermuda this month, has caused hundreds of thousands of dollars damage to businesses, Government building, schools, tourist accommodations, visitor attractions, and to personal properties.
Along with the downed electric poles, hundreds of trees have been uprooted and to some that was a welcomed event because it removed several of the invasive tree species.
However, to Bermuda’s honeybee beekeepers this is an ill-timed event because it has occurred right in the middle of the flowering season of one of the most dreaded invasive trees, the Mexican/Brazilian Pepper trees, and what remained of the flowering season of another invasive species, the Fiddlewood tree.
Owing to the abundance of Mexican/Brazilian Pepper trees throughout the Island, October and November produces the largest honey flow for Bermuda’s honeybee beekeepers. Many of the commercial and hobbyist beekeepers of what are called “managed hives” harvest honey at this time of year.
There were a number of honeybee swarms reported in late August, September, and the first week in October. This could have helped with the repopulation of our honeybees; however, the fact that several managed hives have also been destroyed as a result of the tropical storm and hurricane is also a significant disturbance. This will expose the damaged hives, as well as the undamaged hives, to a massive ant invasion, as millions of ants tend to surface from their underground nesting areas after a storm or hurricane to forage for food.
Many Bermuda households have already experienced this. It is interesting to note that bees, ants, and wasps are closely related. They each live in organised social colonies; have external skeletons, and similar anatomical structures (head, thorax, and abdomen).
It was reported earlier this year that during the past six years Bermuda had lost 65 percent of its managed honeybee hives, which is believed to be the result of the dreaded Varroa mite (Varroa destructor), an external honeybee parasitic mite. This mite attaches itself to the bee and sucks what some call the “bee’s blood” which in itself does not kill the bee, but weakens its immune system and renders it susceptible to viruses that are introduced by the mite.
The Varroa mite was discovered and given its name by an Australian Bee Pathologist Dr Dennis Anderson. He also tracked down the origin of this parasitic mite. The presence of the Varroa mite in Bermuda was discovered by Bermudian beekeeper Lewell Woolridge Jr. The Varroa mite infestation has affected every country in the world with the exception of Australia.
• Mr Isaac is the author of The Bermuda Honeybee Book and is a member of the Bermuda Beekeepers Association. Copies of Mr Isaac’s book can be obtained by sending an e-mail to email@example.com, or calling 703-1500 or 703-5829.
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