The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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- June 1, 2024 - (excerpt)

In the U.S. the Western honey bees, Apis mellifera, have been devastated by varroa mites, which jumped from the Asian honey bee species Apis cerana many decades ago and arrived in the U.S. in the ‘80’s. Given the history and impact of the varroa mite to the U.S. beekeeping industry, a growing concern among beekeepers, researchers, and apiary inspectors is the potential threat and impact of new
emerging parasitic mites in the genus Tropilaelaps.

Tropilaelaps evolved as a parasite of another Asian honey bee, Apis dorsata. Like varroa, some Tropilaelaps species — Tropilaelaps mercedesae and Tropilaelaps clareae — also jumped to Apis mellifera several decades ago when Apis mellifera was introduced to Asia. Both varroa and Tropilaelaps mites parasitizing Apis mellifera, are ectoparasites that feed on brood, causing damage and eventual colony collapse if left unmanaged.

Tropilaelaps mercedesae is the species of primary concern; it is reported to be spreading throughout Asia and surrounding geographies, but has not been detected in North America. Where both mites — varroa and Tropilaelaps — are present in a hive, management by beekeepers in Asia focuses on the Tropilaelaps mite because they reproduce faster than varroa and are very damaging to colonies in a shorter amount of time. If the spread and establishment of Tropilaelaps continues along international trade routes, then the introduction, subsequent outbreak, and eventual establishment of these mites may occur from coast to coast within the U.S.

In North America, most state or territories are responsible for managing a major honey bee pest or disease outbreaks. However, some states and territories do not have honey bee regulatory frameworks for mounting a response, and/or lack the necessary support to implement a response. Given the absence of a federally managed, nation-wide apiary inspection program, the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) plays a leading role in creating a national framework to address emerging threats to the apicultural industry.

Collectively, AIA members form a non-profit international organization currently representing 35 United States and Canadian provinces and territories that regulate the health and movement of over 3.8 million honey bee colonies (USDA, 2022 Census of A.g). AIA members interact with hundreds of thousands of beekeepers each year. As a result, AIA is the national authority on honey bee health and at the frontlines of managing honey bee pest and pathogen outbreaks, and is key to disseminating relevant information about the factors impacting honey bee health. To support their efforts, Project Apis m. has…