• Germany's news in English

Blood-sucking mite kills a third of German bees

The Local · 27 Mar 2012, 12:09

Published: 27 Mar 2012 12:09 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Around 300,000 colonies were wiped out during the winter of 2011/12, bee experts have concluded. That is between 20 and 30 percent of the entire bee population – crucial to the ecosystem and agriculture for their role in pollination.

While a loss during cold weather is expected, the normal rate stands at between five and 10 percent Professor Bernd Grünewald, head of the Oberursel Institute for Beekeeping in Hesse said.

“Although over the past ten years we have started to see a yearly drop of between 10 and 15 percent,” he added, saying the Varroa destructor mite had increased pressure on bee colonies.

Professor Grünewald and 20 other bee scientists met last week at his institute, part of the Goethe University in Frankfurt, to discuss the growing presence of the Varroa mite and what can be done to tackle it.

The Varroa destructor is thought to have arrived in Europe from Asia in the 1960s and was particularly active last year as warm weather continued into November, keeping bees buzzing and hives accessible.

The parasite lives off the blood of adult bees, feeding from them in the hive and leaving open wounds, which are vulnerable to infection.

“The Varroa mite is the biggest threat to Germany’s bees, and there is evidence to show that it is multiplying – this year we counted more than ever before, with the exception of in 2008,” said Grünewald.

Some keepers have tried to combat the mite by dabbing strongly scented essential oils or even formic acid, which occurs naturally in bee and wasp stings, inside the hives to dissuade the Varroa.

But this has not been very successful and is difficult to do.

“In other countries keepers have been trying harsher chemicals,” said Grünewald. “They are not allowed in Germany though due to risk of them ending up in the honey or wax.”

Story continues below…

He stressed that bees were Germany’s most important pollinator and if more were to die off fruit and grains farming could become difficult, but “a magic solution” had yet to be found.

DPA/The Local/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

15:35 March 27, 2012 by derExDeutsche
ah yes, the due to the mild winter.
21:52 March 27, 2012 by Beachrider
This problem also exists in the USA. Both Eurofarmers and American farmers are having the problem of bee-pollination getting interference from these mites.

There are attempts at breeding another strain of bees that isn't subject to these mites. Until that is done (if ever), controlling the mite population is the only other alternative.

This happened with California's Cabernet grapes, about 25 years ago. The answer was to graft together a disease-resistant plant. California did it first. The French have started on their crop (it takes decades). The Italians (and others) appear to be shifting away from Cabernet, over time.

This farming stuff is like this...
06:50 March 28, 2012 by rfwilson
Mild winter??? In Germany this year??? You're joking, right?
23:02 March 29, 2012 by Beachrider
Perhaps the article jumped to a conclusion. European and USA bee-farmers have also been investigating a certain pesticide for being involved. US News carried a report today that advises that pesticides of the Neonicotinoid family are a prime candidate. The USA EPA has published a finding that it could use to ban further use of these pesticides because of their affect on bees.

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd