This winter was especially unfortunate for bees and beekeepers. The population of domesticated honey bees is nearly halved as a result of infestation of hives with parasitic mites, known as Varroa mite. Those mites has made their way to America in 1987 and are the leading winter death cause of bee colonies. The toll of 2017-2018 winter season is heavy: 50% instead of usual 12-20%.
Liz Meils, the state apiarist for the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has told Associated Press about losses:
It’s definitely significant and not really sustainable. The general consensus among beekeepers is that acceptable winter losses should be around 12 percent, up to 20 percent.
The infestation of hives with Varroa destructor can be controlled with some chemical means. It is wide range of pyrethroid insecticides, organophosphate Coumaphos or Check-Mite and others. There are some organic substances for controlling the mites also. It is been reported that formic acid, powdered sugar or talc, essential and mineral oil can treat varroosis as well. However, treatments led to the limited success: Varroa destructor quickly gains resistance against the most chemicals. Usually 95% of mites will die of as a result of initial response treatment. However those surviving mites will gain the ability to withstand the treatment and the next generation of mites will be immune to the pesticides used.
Beekeepers are not eager to adapt these methods, Liz Meils marked:
Some of them would like to be treatment-free. But what happens is they actually cause their hives to what we say ‘crash’ from too many varroa mites in the hive. The hive crashes, the bees die and as that colony is crashing, the bees fly off and then they inhabit other colonies nearby transferring those varroa mites.
Shortage on bees is harmful not only to beekeepers and honey producers. As a result of population loss the pollination of gardens and orchards would be weakened.