The New Zealand experience of varroa invasion highlights research opportunities for Australia
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The Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) is implicated as a major disease factor in honey bee (Apis mellifera) populations worldwide. Honey bees are extensively relied upon for pollination services, and in countries such as New Zealand and Australia where honey bees have been introduced specifically for commercial pollinator services, the economic effects of any decline in honey bee numbers are predicted to be profound. V. destructor established in New Zealand in 2000 but as yet, Australia remains Varroa-free. Here we analyze the history of V. destructor invasion and spread in New Zealand and discuss the likely long-term impacts. When the mite was discovered in New Zealand, it was considered too well established for eradication to be feasible. Despite control efforts, V. destructor has since spread throughout the country. Today, assessing the impacts of the arrival of V. destructor in this country is compromised by a paucity of data on pollinator communities as they existed prior to invasion. Australia’s Varroa-free status provides a rare and likely brief window of opportunity for the global bee research community to gain understanding of honey bee-native pollinator community dynamics prior to Varroa invasion.
KeywordsApis mellifera Bombus Deformed wing virus Pollinator communities Varroa destructor
We would like to thank several anonymous reviewers for input on an earlier version of this manuscript. We would also like to thank Ken Miller for help with Figure design, as well as Alexander Wild, for allowing use of his images in journal articles free of license fees.
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