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Bee Pests: Expert to Speak; Legislators Weigh Research Funds

Posted February 12, 2012, 12:55 PM HST Updated February 13, 2012, 03:43 PM HST
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The crucial role bees and other pollinators play is being increasingly recognized.

An expert on bees will be giving a series of free public talks on the Big Island this week, the state Department of Agriculture said Friday.

Jamie Ellis, an apiculture extension specialist with the University of Florida, has studied the small hive beetle in that state as well as in Africa where it originated. Ellis has also studied interactions between the varroa mite, a bee pest that was first found in Hawaii in 2007, and the small hive beetle, a major nemesis of beekeepers which arrived in Hawaii in 2010. The pests affect both commercial beekeepers and wild hives.

Ellis will speak at Konawaena High School in Kealakekua on Friday, and at the Komohana Extension Office in Hilo on Saturday. Both talks begin at 6 p.m.

While the discussions are aimed primarily at beekeepers, interested members of the public are also invited. For information on Elllis’ research visit http://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/honeybee/extension/index.shtml.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have been considering a bill that would help the University of Hawaii work with Hawaii agriculture officials in carrying out additional research on bee pests.

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The measure was originally designed to provide $10,000 in funding for the University of Hawaii at Hilo to expand the teaching facilities at the university’s farm in Panaewa. House Bill 2100 would have doubled the farm’s current 25 hives to add 25 more to be used to research ways to combat the small hive beetles.

Following hearings by the state House of Representative’s Committee on Agriculture late last month, lawmakers decided to expand the hive research to the statewide UH system by allocating $10,000 for each of Hawaii’s four main islands in addition to $10,000 for the UHH College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management. The amended version of the bill was approved unanimously Thursday by the House Committee on Higher Education.

Agriculture officials told legislators that the research is critical because of the key role honeybees play.

“Honey bee problems are problems for all of us since many local crops are pollinated by bees,” Brian Miyamoto, an official with the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation said in testimony submitted to the agriculture committee. “If we are unable to control pests and diseases that harm our honey bees, Hawaii’s agriculture industry may suffer lower production and quality in tomatoes, melons and cucumbers as well as coffee, avocado, macadamia nuts and citrus.”

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