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Island’s bee population recovering from deadly varroa mite

Updates on Bermuda’s honey bees, chickens and carrots were shared with Senators during the debate on the budget for the Department of Environmental Protection.

There was good news for the bee population, which appears to be recovering from a deadly mite, but bad news for feral chickens, which have been culled by the hundreds.

Government Senator David Burt confirmed that an embargo on imported carrots remains in place to protect local farmers.

The ban was first announced in December 2011 by Environment Minister Marc Bean. Fresh, treated carrots, including peeled, shredded and baby carrots, will only be allowed into the Island when there are not enough local ones available.

A quarantine embargo was already in place for the importation of untreated carrots, in order to protect local stock from infestation by the carrot rust fly.

Sen Burt noted during the budget debate: “The Department of Environmental Protection’s Plant Protection Lab and the Government Marketing Center operated by the Department of Conservation Services, oversee the implementation of this policy, which is designed to protect local farmers, many of whom depend on fresh carrot sales for a significant portion of their annual revenues, whilst accommodating the consumer with respect to their access to fresh carrots when local carrots are not available.”

Sen Burt went on to share some positive news regarding the Island’s honey bees. The insects were badly hit in 2009 when the varroa mite hit the Island, causing thousands of local bees to die. There was a knock-on effect on agriculture as bees are needed to pollinate crops.

Sen Burt reported: “Following the discovery of the varroa mite in Bermuda in October 2009, by October 2010 the mite had infected most of the bee hives in Bermuda.

“In April of 2011, Dr John Harbo, a leading researcher in the Varroa Sensitive Hygienic (VSH) trait, visited Bermuda to evaluate the decline in the local bee populations.”

Sen Burt said Dr Harbo observed that approximately 21 percent of the worker bee pupae were infested with varroa mite, and recommended that local beekeepers take a ‘wait and see’ approach prior to the importing new bees.

“As of October 2011, reports from the local beekeepers suggest that the bees are doing well, however, there is a reduced production of honey and the situation continues to be monitored,” said Sen Burt.

Turning to the issue of feral chickens, he reported: “The Department continued to battle the feral chicken problem. There was some success yielding a catch of approximately 200 chickens as most of the wardens’ traps were issued to farmers. The number of chickens caught by them is unknown.”

Opposition Senator Michael Dunkley noted that in previous years, around 600 feral chickens were culled, and asked why the numbers were down.

“Is that because we are not out there with as many traps?” he inquired.

According to Sen Burt, the responsibility for exterminating the chickens has now been split between Environmental Protection and Conservation Services, which is why there has been a reduction in the numbers culled by Environmental Protection.

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Published March 27, 2012 at 9:57 am (Updated March 27, 2012 at 9:56 am)

Island’s bee population recovering from deadly varroa mite

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