Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Has the Superferry carried super bad bee mites to Maui?

by Larry Geller

I wrote just over two weeks ago that the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, with the cooperation of the Superferry, is endangering Neighbor Island bees and agriculture. I wrote in Varroa mites may already be on the Superferry due to Dept. of Agriculture neglect that feral bee colonies near the Superferry pier on Oahu had not been eradicated as they were supposed to have been:

If Varroa mites make it to Neighbor Islands, Hawaii's organic honey industry could be wiped out. The mite is also thought to be a contributing factor to Colony Collapse Disorder which is wiping out bee hives on the Mainland. Hawaii currently exports queen bees to the Mainland—those exports would be endangered as well if the infection spreads.

If the infection spreads and wipes out bee hives on the Neighbor Islands, any agriculture dependent on bees for pollination would also be adversely affected. In other words, it's not just a bunch of little insects we're talking about here. It's a whole economic ecosystem. Farmers would be hurt too.

Even before I posted that article, Dr. Michael Kliks had spread the same warning to legislators and to others.

The danger is clear, the solutions almost obvious. But was anything at all done?

Joan Conrow wrote today:

And finally, yesterday I was chatting with one of the guys who serves on the Superferry task force. He mentioned that at their first meeting, which coincided with the ferry’s first trip to Maui, Superferry CEO John Garibaldi told them that on the trip to Maui, they’d found some bees on car radiators, which they collected. The bees are a concern because they could spread the varroa mite, which is a serious problem.

The bees are attracted to car radiators because the antifreeze smells sweet to them, so they want to get some.

Were the bees  hanging around the Superferry pier because of DOA neglect? Were they on the Superferry itself? Or did they come in with the cars from wherever? It doesn't matter, the consequences for Neighbor Island agriculture and the bee industry itself don't care where Varroa infested bees come from. It's the responsibility of the state and the Superferry corporation to keep invasive species off the ferry, and it doesn't look like they did that.

So the deadly mite may already be on Maui.

Prevention is better than blame. Someone should get on this right away, even though it may already be too late.



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