The thorn in the honey bee’s side is actually the varroa mites on their backs. There are many myths surrounding honey bee health in Canada, but truthfully the biggest factor affecting their health are these parasites.
Varroa mites are parasites that feed on the blood of honey bees and can weaken entire colonies by spreading dangerous pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, to as many as 60,000 honey bees living in one hive. Once a hive is infested with the varroa mite, the mites spread very quickly throughout the colony leading to exponential losses, particularly during winter when the hive is most vulnerable. The varroa mites came into Canada from the United States in 1980 and the industry saw devastating losses of 200,000 colonies, but the honey bee numbers have stabilized and are higher than they’ve ever been.