The mite Varroa destructor is the main pest affecting honeybees in many parts of the world. Varroa affects both larvae and adult bees by consuming their hemolymph, the insect equivalent to blood, which facilitates the spread of bee viruses. Varroa has become a substantial issue in North America, South America, Europe and New Zealand. Without human intervention most bee colonies would collapse within 2-3 years.
Beekeepers currently have three types of treatments at their disposal, synthetic chemicals, organic chemicals, and biotechnological methods. However, they all have limitations. Synthetic chemicals are the preferred method for commercial and many non-commercial beekeepers because of their convenience. This has led to the frequent use of these chemicals, often without the use of alternatives, which in turn led to the rise of chemical-resistant mites, in particular in the USA and Europe. Products that used to be beekeepers’ silver bullet are now ineffective. Even in New Zealand, where synthetic chemicals have worked well so far, mite resistance to flumethrin is being reported and expected to become widespread in the next few years. In addition to mite resistance, another limitation of synthetic chemicals is the contamination of bee products. Although they tend to accumulate in the wax, honey can sometimes also be affected. In the past, a Hong Kong consumer authority reported detectable amounts of amitraz (a synthetic chemical treatment) in some honey products from New Zealand, which created local consumer concern and reduced sales. Finally, although generally safe for the bees, synthetic chemicals have been reported to affect the fertility of queens and drones.
Organic chemicals and biotechnological methods are alternatives to synthetic chemicals. Their limitations are that they are very labour-intensive and the results are often inconsistent. Commercial beekeepers only use these methods if they they abide by organic standards or in places where they are dealing with resistant mites such as USA and Europe. In spite of the high amount of labour they need to put in, the results are poor with annual colony losses often around 30%.
Pheromite has developed a treatment against the Varroa mite which is organic, works consistently, is long-lasting and easy to set up. This will solve the problem of mite-resistance while saving beekeepers time, effort and money in fighting the Varroa mite.