In a United Nations report The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Pavan Sukhdev speaks to the invaluable service bees provide for humankind. “Not a single bee has ever sent you an invoice. And that is part of the problem—because most of what comes to us from nature is free, because it is not invoiced, because it is not priced, because it is not traded in markets, we tend to ignore it.”
Dr. Ross Miller, entomologist at the University of Guam’s Western Pacific Tropical Research Center, does not ignore bees. He has wanted to conduct a survey on Guam’s bees for years. When USDA-APHIS announced the National Honey Bee Health Survey, Miller jumped at the opportunity to apply for funding to have Guam bees included in the survey. He believes there is a potential market for supplying U.S. beekeepers with queen bees from Guam.
“If Guam can be declared a varroa-free zone, beekeepers on island may be able to fill the U.S. demand for queen bees certified to be free of the damaging mite,” said Miller.
The parasitic varroa mite has infected bee colonies throughout the U.S. mainland and Hawaii. An untreated infestation can kill an entire bee colony.
Since January, Chris Rosario, research assistant at UOG’s Entomology Lab, has been wearing his protective bee suit around the island taking samples from domestic and feral bee colonies. The bees are shipped to USDA-APHIS in Maryland where technicians test for the dreaded varroa mite and possible diseases.
“So far all the samples sent from Guam have tested negative for mites, which is very good news for Guam aviculture,” said Rosario.
Rosario is currently using a new procedure to send the bees for testing. The bees collected are put into a special bee box, then frozen in a blast freezer. The sample is packed in dry ice and sent via DHL to the states.
“The advantage to sending bees in this way rather than in alcohol is that now they can also be tested for various viruses and diseases,” said Rosario.
There is still a need to sample several more domestic and feral hives on Guam. If you are raising bees or know the location of feral hives, contact Rosario at 487-1640. He would be happy to buzz over and collect a few bees for the National Honey Bee Health Survey.
Rosario will also be visiting the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota and would like to contact beekeepers or residents with information about feral hives. His contact email is email@example.com.
For more information about Western Pacific Tropical Research Center activities, visit www.wptrc.org. (UOG)