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Opinion: Plan “Bee”: Hawaii Government Stings Honey Bees

In case you haven’t heard the buzz, the honey bee in Hawaii is gravely threatened by a newly introduced parasite, the varroa mite, which can wipe out our bee population within a few years, and is spreading across the state.

The question is, should we save the honey bees, or is the mite doing us a favor?

If you ask residents, farmers, and beekeepers, the honey bee is a blessing in Hawaii. They provide delicious honey, they help pollinate all sorts of fruit trees and crops, and they are interesting creatures to raise as a hobby. For most people, our islands would surely be less sweet without honey bees.

On the other hand, if you ask some conservationists who only value “native” species and wish to eradicate introduced ones, the honey bee is an invasive species curse in Hawaii. They compete with native pollinators, and they pollinate alien plant species that are encroaching on native forests. For these people, conservation would best be served by the eradication of the honey bee.

Unfortunately, the Hawaii government holds both of these opinions. And this spells doom for the honey bee.

According to Lyle Wong of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (DOA), who is leading efforts on the Big Island to stem the spread of the varroa mite, the Hawaii government is not sure whether to regard the honey bee as a friend or foe (personal communication).

The DOA acknowledges the importance of the honey bee in agriculture, and that most farmers rely on feral, or wild, honey bees to pollinate their crops. On the other hand, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), which works closely with the DOA, considers the honey bee as an invasive species, and thinks Hawaii would be better off without them.

This ambivalence towards the honey bee is also reflected in the fact that the DOA lists the honey bee as an agricultural pest for control or eradication.

Add to this the fact that the varroa mite is considered a form of biocontrol against wild honey bees.

This is from a wikipedia entry: As an invasive species, feral honey bees have become a significant environmental problem in places where they are not native. Imported bees may compete with and displace native bees and birds, and may also promote the reproduction of invasive plants that native pollinators do not visit.

The loss of the honey bee will accomplish what the DOA and DLNR, along with the US Forest Service, had in mind for strawberry guava biocontrol. They proposed releasing an alien scale insect to attack the strawberry guava to reduce its fruit production in order to slow its spread in the forests. That proposal has been made moot by the introduction of the varroa mite. The loss of honey bees mean less strawberry guava fruit. No need for the scale now that the mite is here.

The announcement of the invasion of the varroa mite on the Big Island came two weeks after the Hawaii County Council chastised the federal and state governments for their biocontrol plan for strawberry guava. Some people believe the varroa mite could have been secretly released by zealous biocontrol proponents who wish to see the demise of the honey bee in order to reduce the spread of guava, strawberry guava, and other “weed” trees. Since the scale insect release plan was being attacked, could the deliberate release of the varroa mite on the Big Island have been “Plan Bee”?

Whether it happened by design or through incompetence, the varroa mite was not stopped in Hilo, where it was first discovered. Now, the mite is expected to infest the entire Big Island, as it has Oahu.

Meanwhile, the DOA is killing healthy honey bees in swarm traps around the Big Island, certainly not a sign of friendship or support for the bees. According to Lyle Wong, the bees are killed to see if they had mites. However, there are effective nonlethal methods to tell this, as beekeepers will attest. Nevertheless, over 350 healthy bee hives have been killed around Hilo, and healthy bees are still being killed in swarm traps on the Kona side.

Why have swarm traps? It helps to see if the mite has arrived in that area by inspecting the bees in the trap. Of course, there is nothing that this information tells you beyond the fact that the mite has arrived.

So why kill the bees in the traps if they are healthy? It’s because it is just easier for the government workers to bag the swarm traps and kill all the bees instead of moving the bees to a hive and letting them live.

This disregard for the honey bees should not be a surprise given the way the state regards the bee. But it has stirred the anger of some local bee lovers who want to save the bees, and move healthy bee swarms from the traps into hives that can be given to residents and farmers who want bees. However, the DOA is resisting these efforts to save the healthy bees, insisting on killing them.

It is also important to have as many healthy bee hives as possible to allow the bees to evolve and adapt to the mite.

In fact, natural selection could ultimately create a resistant honey bee that could survive this mite attack. But until that happens, we will see our food supply reduced. Beekeepers will have to manage their hives for mites and sell pollination services to large farm operations, as is now required on the Mainland as a result of varroa mite destruction of wild bee populations. Meanwhile, our wildlife will suffer from lack of fruit, causing some wildlife, such as pigs and birds, to encroach on backyards and farms to find food. Hunters and gatherers from the wild will find less game and fruit. Our wild food resources, as well as our gardens and orchards, will suffer.

Less honey. Less fruit. Less abundance. Life will not be as sweet in the islands.

But not everyone will lament. The DLNR will celebrate, along with all the invasive species committees and councils, with their state, federal and private alliances, all dedicated to eliminating non-native species from Hawaii. They will call the elimination of the honey bee “sweet”.
But it is all the rest of us who will get stung.

Sydney Ross Singer


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32 Responses to “Opinion: Plan “Bee”: Hawaii Government Stings Honey Bees”

  1. JP says:

    This is absolutely irresponsible and inflammatory. Somehow you have managed to cherry pick and twist various sources to the point of producing a ludicrous accusation: that conservationists want you to starve and die. The DOA lists bees as needing control in some situations where they pose a threat to humans (example: a hive in a school, considering that many children are allergic would be a problem). But the idea that ANYONE would purposefully introduce Varroa mite is a cockamamie conspiracy theory. There is NO PROOF WHATSOEVER of memeber of Hawaii’s conservation community even suggesting large scale control of honeybees.

  2. lorax says:

    Here in Puna we know our neighbor, Mr. Singer, as a hysterical character who trys to appear scientific and professional, giving himself various phony titles and making up official-sounding institutes for whatever government-sponsored disaster he’s trying to convince us of. He tries to discredit government scientists whenever he can, by inventing and spreading misinformation. He claimed to have spread coqui around the Big Island in an attempt to protect them from eradication efforts. His protection of invasives in itself is bad enough, but this paraniod delusion about varroa being imtroduced as guava biocontrol…I hope it speaks for itself.

    • James says:

      I don’t think attacking Mr. Singer is the answer. The article raises some very interesting questions. That anyone in Hawaii would call the honey bee “invasive” is disturbing. Thank you Mr. Singer for bringing this up.

      • JP says:

        On the surface, it seems disturbing that honeybees would be considered invasive, but… European honeybees do pollinate many crops, and they also compete with native species of bee where they have been introduced. We cannot always assume that what is good for humans is automatically good for biodiversity. The overall question here is “what (if anything) are we willing to do to make some place for other species that we share the planet with?”. Apart from control where they are a threat to human health or a vector for plant disease, I seriously doubt the department of agriculture has considered eradicating bees, considering the obvious consequences.

      • lorax says:

        I don’t think I attacked Mr. Singer. If I called him an arrogant, lying bully, that woulud be attacking him. I pointed out what he does to try to win people over to his causes.

        I heard that the honey bee was placed on the list of invasives in order to facilitate destroying hives infected with varroa mites. I guess there’s less red tape with that approach, and more ability to respond to the crisis. I keep bees and know many beekeepers, and destroying hives is accepted as wise management when the alternative is losing nearly all hives to mites.

  3. JP says:

    I agree that attacking Mr. Singer personally is unwarranted, but addressing his extreme acusations is warranted.
    Singer’s Acusation: Conservationists “only value “native” species and wish to eradicate introduced ones”.
    Reality: Conservationists eat non-native species, grow them in the gardens and have them as pets (they are non-native species themselves). They are not automatically against anything that is non-native but are justifiably concerned with the comparatively small number of species that drive native species to extinction. In an even smaller number of cases, some of these problematic species have some positive benefit for humans, hence the controversy. In short, Singer would have it that conservatists “curse” species based on where they are from (and has made the “Nazi” comparison in his publications); in reality conservationists are focused on what species actually do (as a function of scientific observation).

  4. JP says:

    Singer’s Accusation: If bees were to be elimated from Hawaii, “DLNR will celebrate, along with all the invasive species committees”.
    Reality: Apart from the obvious viciousness of asserting that people would celebrate a disaster for agriculture, the relationship of bees to biodiversity is not as simplistic as Singer asserts. Native ecosystems have lost many pollinators (especially birds) to disease and other *problematic* non-native species; at this point many native plants depend on honeybees for pollination. Therefore the conservation community is not dancing in the streets upon learning of the arrival of the Varroa mite.

  5. Mark G Wright says:

    An imaginative, strange and inflammatory piece of writing indeed, but we expect nothing less from Singer!
    To get some information on what we (University of Hawaii) are doing about Varroa mite in Hawaii, go to
    We are in the process of developing very effective mite treatments that should be organic-compatible.
    This work is funded by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

  6. Mark G Wright says:

    Incidentally, the swarm traps placed around ports are there to prevent swarms of bees from getting onto barges(or to catch them when they are moving off barges etc), at ports. They are intended as a means of reducing the chances of new infestations occurring. All swarms caught are sampled for mires. Swarms captured on the Kona side have been used to repopulate hives in Hilo. They are NOT all killed.

  7. Mark G Wright says:

    To anyone who cares to get a more balanced version of the Varroa and bee management issue, please feel free to contact us at UH – my email is

  8. sigh says:

    This is (almost) the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. I have attended the Hawaii Conservation Conference for 4 years, where hundreds of conservation professionals come together to present their projects and discuss conservations approaches in Hawaii. In the HUNDREDS of presentations, publications, emails, newsletters, etc I have been exposed to in the conservation world, I have never once seen even a hint of a suggestion that conservationists want to eradicate honeybees. In fact, I know some people at HDOA personally, and when the varroa mite was discovered near Hilo last year, they practically shut down all functions and went what appeared to be a SWAT-like emergency response to eradicate. They put in exhausting hours. It is pathetic that conservationists – people trying to save the last of a beautiful, unique, ecosystem that provides us with ALL OF OUR WATER – are being made to be the bad guys.

  9. No Sympathy says:

    If we ever needed any more evidence that Singer is a crackpot lunatic, here it is!

  10. James says:

    No Sympathy, you are clearly a nasty person.

    As for the issue at hand, I would like to support what Singer is saying.

    The Department of Ag says they are wanting food sustainability. And yet, if you look at their website, you will see that wild wood is never mentioned as a food source in Hawaii. All the waiawi, guava, and other fruit trees in the forests are considered weeds by the government. And they want to destroy waiawi fruit all over the state with a scale insect because they don’t want waiawi fruit in the forests.

    Is food ever a weed?

    We rely on imports for most of our food. Anywhere else in the world there would not be wasted food littering the forests and roadsides. People would value this food more. As it is now, it seems like unwanted rubbish.

    But that is because we don’t appreciate what we have. And we have been brainwashed to think that only native species count. The bee article shows this conflict between native and desired exotic.

    • JP says:

      James, I have to disagree with you and say that food can be a weed. The best analogy I can think of is water. Essential? Yes? Healthy? Yes. A deadly problem? Yes (floods, tsunamis etc.). A VAST MAJORITY of the strawberry guava on the island is in remote areas, not “harvestable”, and posing a very serious threat to native ecosystems, and indeed to agricuture (I know an organic lychee farmer who loses thousands of dollars worth of crop every year to the fruit flies that swarm over from the nearby waiawi-infested forest). We have deforested so much of the island just to have farmland that we do not use, and now the logical answer is the demand that the remaining forests feed us? Are forests better for “us” if all of the native species go extinct because they are displaced by species that we can eat? I don’t think so. Food sustainability is best acheived by supporting farmers and individuals to grow food in enormous amount of land with good soil and condotions (ever drive the Hamakua Highway). We absolutely have the capacity to do that, and don’t need to make extra demands on “nature” to provide for us. “Nature” has sacrificed enough.

  11. James says:

    JP, I think you are missing the point. Notice that the state’s proposed solution to the strawberry guava was to release a biocontrol insect. Thousands of residents grow strawberry guava and use it for food, which is agriculture. Eliminating all the strawberry guava with an insect to stop the guava in the forests shows how the interests of the forests are considered more important than the interests of agriculture. And the DOA promoted the insect release.

    We need to develop a policy where forest management does not interfere with agriculture, and vice versa. The honey bee causes a dilemma. There is a conflict of interest in the government.

    Also, JP, you say the honey bee is listed as an agricultural pest because they can be a stinging nuisance. It seems that that makes them a health threat, and the Department of Health should deal with that, not the DOA. As I see it, the ag people have no business listing the most important friend of ag as a pest.

    • JP says:

      James, I am missing a point that is based on misinformation. There is no scientific evidence that the biocontrol would, as you say “eliminate all straweberry guava”. Period. The insect would simply reduce it from a super weed to something with the growing ability of any “normal” fruit crop (e.g. one that stays put on the farm); consider that a very large number of crops are grown and do not cause any harm. And that’s the real point. There are countless alternatives to strawberry guava in crops proven not to cause a problem (i.e. everything you see at the farmers market). Instead of growing these you propose we foster something that has very serious consequences to biodiversity. On that note, there is NO alternative to our unique native species. When something blinks out it’s gone forever. And again we’re not talking about trading the survival of unique species for the elimination of strawberry guava, we’re trading it for a reduction in strawberry guava from hyper-abundance to a manageable amount that can still be used by people.

  12. BettieVan Overbeke says:

    We need bees . I grow the majority of my own food and have an excess of fruit which I feed to my livestock. I need bees or no fruit. I don’t get water from the forest. I get if off my barn and house roof . The conservation people are unrealistic about their forest management thinking they can have the ancient forest without extensive weeding and management. . There are lots of ecotourists. start some of them enjoying work projects clearing guava . Start at the roads and work back/ Most guava infestation occurs on disturbed land and starts at the roadside.
    I’m tired of hearing the guavas kill ohia, THEY DON’T BUT THEY DO CAUSE A LOSS OF HAPU. State promoted Albesia are what’s killing off lower level ohias. So many lies I’ve heard from the forest people in their testimonies that I don’t think they know what they are doing. Their insect quarentine facility is also unsafe and in an earthquake prone area at the volcano.

  13. christy says:

    I am interested to know the quantity of resources (people’s energy, time, money, etc.) that have been used to research and promote the use of the non-native insect that was almost purposely introduced. And I would like to know the quantity of resources that has gone to specific individuals to assist them in finding ways to create a sustainable solution to their personal problems with invasive plants and animals. In other words, is there creativity happening here? How about actually helping real people with their actual individual situations? Could the lychee farmer have a substantial buffer to his crop, planted with something that creates a thick barrier but does not spread voraciously, but perhaps is another asset, such as certain varieties of bamboo? And as for the forest, how about a plan to dig up sections of invasive plants in the vast expanses of remote wilderness, and replant koa, sandalwood and other native species that thrive there? Or consider the subdivisions, where many trees like guava and albezia proliferate because people cut down the ohia. I see the invasive species occasionally being cut back, but nothing more than that is ever done. And of course they quickly grow back. I am completely against toxic poisoning, since putting poison on the earth for any reason seems, in my mind, obviously misguided and ultimately disastrous. Everywhere poison is being used to manage nature for human needs, different solutions must be found.
    So how about a comprehensive plan to plant what works, such as the original forest, or other food trees and plants such as ulu, avocado, sweet potatoe, citris, etc., that don’t spread so quickly? Yes it will need to be managed, but wouldn’t that be a nice way to create meaningful work, as well as the most nourishing foods for our community? Let’s see, would I rather mop the greasy floors of the new Pahoa KFC or Burger King, or go out into the fresh air, taking care of trees and plants and and growing food for my community… Sure, it isn’t as fast and easy a vision as the idea of releasing a bug, but who knows what the bug will eventually do, and few things truly good and lasting come fast and easy. And it is clear that if you want to have a relationship with the earth that supports life, you got to get down in it, be a part of it, not look from some removed, detached perspective. Many of us handle our own bodies the same way we try to handle the earth. Our mainstream medicine often takes similar misguided approaches as some Ag. scientists, adding harmful substances to an already out of balanced system… rather than going to the root of the problems at hand, and taking the sometimes painful steps towards honesty and change that are required for healing. Let’s look down the road, take the long view. Every community should have the food at hand to feed itself, and, also, the wild native forest needs to be protected and restored. Bringing in disruptive bugs and poisons are not the answer. Those kinds of solutions do not move in the direction of true balance, but create further imbalance. It’s like turning around a big ship in a small harbor. It is going to take a lot of focus and still only happen a little bit at a time. But what have we got but eternity on our hands?
    As far as the bee goes, I hope Syd’s worst fears are not true, and, I am glad he keeps his radar up and asks us all to examine what’s what. I would like to hear more about how UH is working on an organic-compatible solution to the mites… what is it?, and I am glad to hear they are repopulating hives in Hilo with healthy Kona bees… and I hope the bees have a chance to evolve beyond this challenge, and be stronger for it.
    It seems that the mites are the “pest”, not the bees. I imagine that whole bee hives are killed because the time and money involved in checking each and every bee while they are all still alive, rather than dead and still, increases greatly. This is a sad situation, and I have no educated opinion on how to deal with it. It heartens me that there is so much love for the honeybee!

    • Mark G Wright says:

      Yes the mites are the pest! Whole bee hives were being killed in the Hilo area to try to eradicate the mite from the area, when the invasive population was still restricted to a small area. Bee colonies are no longer being killed We (University of Hawaii in collaboration with HDoA) are working on effective ways to manage the mites now so that queen bee production, honey production and pollination services can be sustained in Hawaii.

      The organic-compatible solution we are working on is a formic acid hive fumigant treatment (bees are tolerant of formic acid, in fact honey contains small amounts of the compound). The mites die en-mass from formic acid treatment. The product being tested should be available in HI very shortly, thanks to UH efforts, HDoA very efficiently dealing with labeling the product for special local need, and the manufacturer being extremely supportive. Organic labeling of the product is in process, I am unsure where we stand on that currently.
      We are looking at various options that may be used in a sustainable integrated strategy to manage the mite, the new formic acid treatment will be a component of this strategy.
      Please feel free to contact me at for more information.

  14. JP says:

    Some interesting points here…
    James, DOA hadles bees because they have the personnel to do so (DOH has no such personnel) and are also the agency that governs which species come in, which ones go out, and which ones get monitored or in some cases controlled. It’s clearly within their jurisdiction.
    Bettie, strawberry guava actually kills ohia the slow and silent way: it takes away the future. Go to a strawberry guava thicket and you will find nice old ohia trees towering above – no problem right? – they appear to be coexisting. Now look down… baby ohia? Absolutely none. Saplings? No. But there is definitely a carpet of strawberry guava seedlings. Without the ability to reproduce, the the ohia in that area will ultimately vanish. It happens slowly enough that people seem not to notice (takes decades). There has been a tremendous amount of research on this, with very hard (and disturbing) numbers. Moreover, when you see such a thicket the ohia is the only remainder of a formerly diverse forest (most of Hawaii’s biodiversity is shrubs and smaller trees that live underneath the ohia. In such thickets, that already cover much of the island, the biodiversity is long gone.

    Christy, I can tell you as an environmental studies professor and someone who has worked with both farmers and conservation types in a professional capacity, that there is creativity going on here. A lot. It is very frustrating to hear people like Mr. Singer make vicious accusations about people not doing there jobs or thinking things through. There has been a tremendous amount of effort on many aspects of the situation (which I admit is not an easy one with black and white solutions). The reality is that a wide variety of control methods tried over the years are neither effective nor savory. Cut down strawberry guava, and it sprouts back from the stump and seeds sprout everywhere. Herbicides cna kill the resprouts, but doing that on a large scale is pretty nasty, and the new seedlings take over anyway. Plant ohia and koa where the guava is removed and they are eventually overrun with few surviving. Solid research with solid numbers. And this is in very costly trials at the scale of a few acres – consider the island-wide expanse of strawberry guava. Again, a lot effort, a lot of thought, a lot of money, and a lot of people who dedicate their lives to this and are trying to do the right thing.

  15. Pikake says:


    First, let me say that my father was the one who held the State logging permit for Hawaii for over 25 years and had a degree from the university of Minnesota, Albert Lee, in horticulture. I grew up on the island of Hawaii under his tutelage and walked many of our forests here with him, many of which are now GONE, due to HUMAN intervention!

    The ohia is endangered not by the waiwi, but by human clear-cutting, something my father NEVER did in his logging and hardwood business. Pin-to-pin bulldozing of properties even as small as 1/5th acre is a sign of an inept bulldozer operator and/or contractor. Bulldozers can turn on a dime! My father used one in his day-to-day operations (D9). It’s more “get it done as fast and as cheaply as possible” ideation.

    I miss the pink and white ohia blossoms, as well as now how rare the bronze and orange ohia blossoms are. When I walked forests with my dad, they were present. I have spoken with only ONE other person who remembers seeing these beautiful ohia blossom colors. Now they aren’t. Why? Humans have bulldozed them away to build their homes clearing pin-to-pin.

    I have problems accepting information touted by a “professor” who uses the word “there” (meaning “location”) instead of the word “their” in reference to people. JP, maybe you need refresher English coursework? Also, much of what “professionals” tout nowadays is JUNK SCIENCE. Statistics manipulated to appear to validate the papers’ authors. I have read scientific papers myself and find their summaries in complete disagreement with their tables. Prime example is one I read for my own health (breast cancer survivor) in reference to the drug, Tamoxifen, the doctors were insisting I take to prevent “recurrence.” Not only did this drug, per the tables, NOT prevent recurrence (less than 10%), but it caused other forms of cancer (endometrial) in approximately 25%, taken as little as over two years. It was the drug manufacturer’s own study, but its summary claimed 80% prevention? Drugs are killing people, when there are real cures in nature!

    By the way, I have an Associate’s Degree in General Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Arts and Sciences, so have a wide education (studies focused mostly on writing). One thing I refused to “lose” in educating myself in college was common sense. But many I see with professional degrees seem to have discarded common sense, trading it for greed, especially those with PHDs.

    It might be of interest to those of you who read this thread regularly that the source of one of Puna’s biggest problems was the US Forest Service manager, back in 1889 or so. He took it upon himself to “reforest” Puna with the dangerous albizia trees (fast growing trees native to Indonesia, with very little use value) after they had allowed the deforesting of Ohia here to use as railroad ties. Unfortunately, after cutting all those trees down, wiping out our forests over most of Puna, they NEVER used the ohia logs! Humans can be so stupid sometimes. It’s GREED that manipulates most of what humans do. If profit isn’t attached to a project for someone, it doesn’t get done.

    To settle an argument in reference to flora on this island, I have news for you all. Less than 10% of the flora (plants, flowers, trees) occurring here are endemic (native). Most have come here through means including nature (coconuts floating in, as an example) or more importantly, human intervention. Not even the kalo and ulu are endemic. They are indigenous, meaning they have acclimated to our region; “naturalized,” much like people do who immigrate. If we took away all the non-native species, our island would be denuded… virtually baren. We’d have NO agriculture (nothing grown for ag is native!), no food, no natural cooling, very little rain… think about it.

    It is my opinion that the “powers that be” in regards to what they are trying to do on this island with their junk science is to detract us from the real issues… the REAL causes of our problems in nature; that of allowing in dangerous insects (30 new invaders per year, according to Discovery Channel) because of inadequate monitoring at our ports of entry. Hello?! Linda Lingle wanted to CUT our inspectors?!!! Why are they doing this? Our island home is being used as a TEST LABORITORY! We’re so isolated that nature does very little to influence evolution, so these pseudo-scientists are taking advantage of our isolation to run their tests by releasing (intentionally, as well as unintentionally) all their pet projects.

    The more we confront… the more we learn. MJW 2001

    • Mark G Wright says:

      Way off the original topic, but sounds like fun…..
      Your last sentence is way off-base. Nature always influences evolution! Nothing else does, in fact. think about it…..

      • christy says:

        dear mark, it is an interesting question you raise by your assertion that nothing else but nature influences evolution. you are implying that humans are part of nature and all that we we do is as this part.
        while i agree that we are a part of nature, it is our gift as humans that we are able to be inventive, to use the ingredients of nature to create totally new things and ideas… and because we are oblivious to this immense power and responsibility, we have created horrors, as well as contributions, to life as a whole. because we are consumed with our own egos, we do not dedicate this power of creation to a higher purpose, guided by love and the awareness of the oneness of life. i do not consider nuclear bombs, or nuclear waste products from power plants, for two extreme examples, as simply part of natural evolution, or of nature itself. that is human invention, beyond Nature. as part of nature, we ourselves are still slowly evolving. but, due to our ability to make choices outside of our instinctual drives, together with our lack of consciousness of this power and of life’s interdependent wholeness, we are also degenerating physically and otherwise as a species, and also creating imbalance for the planet far beyond what natural selection and evolution would dictate we would. nature creates harmony out of chaos. we are creating chaos because of our disconnection from the forces of nature and our relationship to the whole. we are not outside of nature, but have the ability to ACT like it! and we also have the ability to be conscious of our place in nature, rather than just instinctually guided to behave in certain ways, to contribute to harmony and evolution. that consciousness is an illustration of how we have the ability to influence nature. is consciousness, or the lack of it, part of nature? perhaps we need to define nature. but certainly this human trait of the potential for consciousness and for creative invention requires great responsibility we have yet to acknowledge.
        question: in it’s proper place in nature, is the v. mite a “pest”? or is it another creature living it’s life, birthing and eating and sleeping and mating, and dying, like you and me? the whole system is out of balance, and we are going to have to take a wider view to understand the situation and how to mend it for all creatures, the whole of life. if we don’t, nature will eventually create harmony for us, and we will have to re-learn how to live as part of it. because right now, we are living as if we aren’t.

        • Mark G Wright says:

          Good thinking :-)
          A nice reply. I suspect we will eventually be subdued by the natural order as you suggest.
          re: the mites – if their spread had been slow, they would probably not be a pest, but modern transport of bees moved them around faster than the bees could adapt……. Asian and African bees deal with them quite well!

          • christy says:

            i really appreciate all of the thoughtful comments. i will just restate what betty and i were suggesting, which is that the resources spent trying to find big solutions to big problems need to be turned into many small, highly practical efforts. it will need to be managed in ongoing ways. like the physician’s oath to do no harm, so must those trying to handle the earth’s imbalances take only measures which do no harm. money can be allocated to pay people who continuously maintain the forests, slowly pushing back the guava and protecting/restoring the forests, and planting food trees, bamboo for construction/fibers, etc.. it is a simple and slow plan of action, not our modern cultural style, but maybe more Hawaiin style?! it would probably be far less expensive, and more far reaching, than hiring scientists at universities to continuously research insects and poisons and such (no offense intended to those scientists sincerely trying to find solutions to help).
            and, many people care about these issues, love the forest, and would support it in all kinds of ways if it were widely promoted as a community/government priority to protect it. in my subdivision a local conservation group purchased 10 acres of ohia forested lots and occasionally come to maintain it. i’ve lived here 6 years and just recently found out about it. i am very pleased it is near my house. nearby there are some waiwai along the road sides, the fruit of which my sons enjoy eating. i have also used the wood to make them toy spears and bows and arrows.

            i appreciate syd because i think his main concern is that our decisions need to reflect a care for nature’s balance. the decisions of gov’t often see things in terms of in short term solutions which may further imbalance the situation. he asks for transparency, for clarity, and gets people talking and, hopefully, thinking things through more deeply. he wants to protect. this is an important role in the community. and, he gives a voice to what many people experience; mistrust and hurt about how different things are said and done by some people who use their political/economic power to serve their own greed, or who are in service to those that do this, consciously or unconsciously.

            also, i wanted to get some clarity about the idea that water is effected by the waiwai issue. are our watersheds being affected by loss of old forests/ecosystems? is this an area of priority to protect? I would think cutting of the plant life, whatever it is, would present problems, but how does the spread of waiwai affect this?

            and, why do asian and african bees deal with the mites quite well?

          • JP says:

            Christy, you have a good point in suggesting that money and effort go toward action on the ground at smaller scales rather than large scale research. What has been lost in this discussion (my posts included) is that these kinds of efforts actually have been taking place for a long time and account for far more funding, people, and effort than has been allocated to research. Since these efforts do not generate controversy, they are not reported in our current media climate, which is a shame. Where is this happening? Apart from government agencies such as the national parks and the state (who spend lots of money), there are private and community-based organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, the Dry Forest Working Group (on Kona side), Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, Malama o Puna, Kamehameha schools, Friends of Hakalau Forest, and many others (each of these have outreach and volunteer programs). All of these groups put far more money into work crews actually trying out different ways of dealing with these issues. In fact, researchers work very closely with people involved in these efforts (they depend very much on the observations of on-the-ground workers). But don’t take my word for it (according to some posts I engage in “junk science” because I made a spelling error). I encourage you to reach out to these organizations and ask the people doing this work how much money, effort, etc. they spend, and how they feel about research. I am also happy to discuss these issues in more detail with anyone, and even to go into the forest and talk story about what is going on. My name is Jonathan Price and I am at UH Hilo (

  16. Mark G Wright says:

    Regarding the closing question from the last thread “why do asian and african bees deal with the mites quite well” – Asian bees co-evolved with the mites and have evolved tolerance. African bees (and interestingly, Africanized bees) have aggressive grooming behavior, and also produce smaller bees (in smaller brood cells) that discourage mite population development.
    Mites develop within the brood cells of bees – drone bees, with the largest cells and longest development time, are the most susceptible to mites. We are currently examining the potential for using drone brood as a trap for mites in Hawaii beehives.

  17. Nani Pogline says:

    I love all things native, but am realistic enough to accept for the most part it is a loosing battle. It seems insane that there are people who acctually put the native forests above and beyond the consideration of the survival of the people. There is not much to eat in the native forests. The wild fruit and the local farm produce should be the absolute priority in these scary economic times. I feel like I am going crazy when I hear some acctually think bees should not exist. God help us, with people in power thinking the ways they do.

  18. Gentry says:

    I like what I read about the formic acid treatment. Bees have been in the state for centuries now, they’re not a recent arrival. I don’t see how anyone could get that idea.

    I would not be surprised if the massive biodiversity in the state nudges bees here in the direction of evolving some form of resistance to the mites quicker than it could occur on mainland areas. Bee’s on the islands have populations that get exposed to a wider variety of environmental conditions, as well as a much wider variety of plants to draw pollen from.

    In the meantime, the formic acid solution will help buy them time & curb the mites. I think it’s an excellent solution because it works with something that’s already organically integrated into hive biology. Since it’s biocompatible it’s entirely possible that the exposure will spur development of resistance too.

  19. Gentry says:

    I did some research and found out that formic acid is both safe and ecologically friendly. I did research on my own and spoke to a person I know who’s a bee expert to check further. It was nice to get some opinion on the issue from someone who’s judgment I trust.

    Wiping out the mites as much as possible with fumigation is a great approach, and I’m totally in support of this method of parasite control.

  20. S.B says:

    Hi Im doing a debate on this topic and I need to know how much money we have spent in researching this topic can you help me.

  21. In reply to SB above, nowhere near enough! I am shocked to read this article about the seemingly dismissive stance as to whether honey bees are important or not! Tell me please, what came first the honey bee or the mite? Bees have populated our earth for 200,000,000 million years (Natural History Museum) how long has the mite been here? Without honey bees it won’t just be fruit and a third of our food we will lose, oh no, you can forget your jeans and T-shirts and amongst other things your lovely cotton sheets. And as for not having honey…..oh please, don’t get me started!


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