The growing attack of Varroa mites coupled with unscientific bee keeping practices is fast affecting the bee keeping industry and honey production in the state.
The outbreak of Varroa mites has alone destroyed around 50% honey bee colonies in the state, causing considerable economic losses to small and marginal farmers engaged in honey production. Many of these farmers have also been forced to shut shops.
Notably, the prevalence of Varroa mite was first detected in honey bees in the state a couple of years ago by the scientists of the Dr. YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry in Chamba and despite devising preventive measures mite attacks have not been curbed.
The mite has damaged large numbers of honey bee colonies in Chamba, Kangra, Kullu, Mandi, Hamirpur and Sirmour districts.
"Shortly after detecting the mite's presence, we have started educating the farmers about the mechanical and cultural methods to counter the mite attacks to save the existing honey bee colonies in the state," said Dr. Vijay Singh Thakur, vice-chancellor, YS Parmar university.
According to a varsity scientist mite attacks have destroyed over 50% colonies in the state significantly affecting honey production.
"Varroa has become major challenge to the bee-keeping industry as without adopting proper control measures, bee colonies die within two years of initial infestation. The mite is not only crippling the industry in the state but also across the country," said Thakur.
He said that farming on about 50 million hectare of cultivated land was fully dependent for pollination on honey bees and other natural pollinators and mites were causing considerable losses to the yield.
Varroa mite attacks the developing larvae of bees and results in shorter abdomen and deformed wings.
It kills honey bees within a few years.
Fumigation with formic acid for two weeks helps in reducing the mite population.
The best preventive method was to select and breed Varroa tolerant bees based on inherent natural defence traits.