Bee parasite creeps into P.E.I.

A bee parasite that could threaten hives has been found in P.E.I., after the importation of pollinators from off-Island was allowed earlier this year, says an Island beekeeper.

Tracheal mites block bee's breathing tube

A tiny parasite has been found in P.E.I. hives. (CBC)

A bee parasite that could threaten hives has been found in P.E.I., after the importation of pollinating bees from off-Island was allowed earlier this year, says an Island beekeeper.

Derek Van Den Heuvel is concerned his hives are now at risk following a positive test of tracheal mites, which, until now, had not been found in the province.

"It wouldn't be very far yet, I don't think. They do take some time to get going. But now that they're here, they are here to stay," said Van Den Heuvel.

The microscopic parasite can block the breathing tube of bees, he said.

"The colonies collapse from it if it gets out of hand."

He and some other beekeepers had asked the province to ban the importation of bees from Nova Scotia where the mite was discovered in 2011.

'Wrong decision'

But in a heated meeting in January, the province and the P.E.I. Beekeepers Association decided to allow the movement of bees from Nova Scotia and Ontario due to a shortage of pollinators.

At that meeting, Chris Jordan, the province's berry crop development officer, said the risk of bringing in mites was low.

"Moving bees always has a risk to it. So, I mean, there is always a potential we will introduce pests and diseases. And it's happened in other jurisdictions, and it could happen here as well," said Jordan this week.

The province has confirmed the mite's presence, although the levels are very low and isolated to one bee yard.

The mite was detected before bees arrived from Ontario, said Jordan.

Van Den Heuvel said the decision to bring in the bees was wrong.

"I'm sore over the situation. It potentially affects my future."

The province does offer a subsidy to beekeepers so they can import mite-resistant queens.

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