The health and survival of honey bees are threatened by a range of pests, diseases and predators. These may weaken a honey bee colony, reducing its chances of survival.
Beekeepers have always dealt with numerous pests and predators in managing their hives, but it is no understatement to say that everything changed after the introduction of the Varroa mite.
The Varroa mite is the honey bee’s greatest enemy
// The mite is about 1.6 millimetres long.
// It weakens the bee’s immune system, causing diseases to become more virulent.
// It transmits viruses directly into the bees’ haemolymph, a body fluid similar to blood, making previously harmless viruses lethal. These viruses spread quickly across bee colonies.
Various biological, physical, chemical and biotechnical options are available to combat the Varroa mite in the hive, though the availability differs in each region of the world. Some products require specific temperature and environmental conditions and not all synthetic products are available due to differing regulatory situations and market dynamics. Beekeepers need to combine appropriate control measures and practice integrated apiculture to provide for the bees' needs
Bayer’s division Animal Health offers synthetic varroacides for effective control of Varroa mites and damaging bee diseases transmitted by this parasite.
Like the Varroa Gate (available in Europe only): A plastic strip with holes, impregnated with a varroacide, is fit to the front of the entrance of a beehive, preventing re-infestation by Varroa.
Registration of a new varroacide is similar to that of any new pesticide, which can involve more than a hundred basic studies and an average of eleven years to take it from concept to commercialization.
Many beekeepers prefer alternative Varroa treatment options over synthetic varroacides. Another sustainable solution besides Varroa control could be to breed Varroa-resistant bees. The Bayer Bee Care Science Program has activities in both areas.
Apart from Varroa, other pests and pathogens threaten honey bee health – the Bayer Bee Care Program encompasses multiple research and awareness raising activities, for instance on the Small Hive Beetle.