The island’s bee population will need to be checked again for disease this year after reports of illicit importation of foreign bees.

Despite a plea for the person responsible to identify themselves, no one has come forward.

In 2015, the island received EU recognition as being free of the pernicious varroa mite, which has decimated bee populations in the UK. The certification was only granted after a long and rigorous checking process and is rigorously guarded by a strict prohibition on importing bees to the island. Virtually any alien bees brought here are likely to carry the varroa disease which would then spread through the island’s bee population.

Harry Owens, the government’s bee inspector, said even if the matter had been a false alarm, it was important to check colonies were still disease free.

 ‘We are asking everyone with bees to co-operate this spring, starting towards the end of April when the drones appear,’ he said.

‘Our bees have a reputation here because they are isolated. and that needs to be jealously guarded.’

Mr Owens said he had heard the rumours of alien bees in the island from two separate sources.

‘I am really perturbed by it because if it’s a fact it will change bee keeping in the Isle of Man for ever,’ he said.

The law imposes a maximum fine of £5,000 on anyone illegally importing foreign bees to the island.

Over a five year period Mr Owens inspected around 800 hives on 300 different sites across the island checking for varroa and foulbrood infections as part of the official disease-free certification.

Manx Independent, March 31, 2016


Although we very much hope that the supposed importation didn’t happen, Harry Owens, in the article above, requests beekeepers to be alert and inspect their bees!

The extract below from the website of Randy Oliver,  provides advice how to go about this.

Brood sampling

Varroa prefer drone brood to worker by a ratio of about 10:1, so if mites are in the brood, drone brood is where to look! The easiest place to check is in the broken drone cells exposed on the top bars when you split the brood chambers in the spring. But look quickly, since the mites hide in several seconds! Otherwise, use an uncapping fork (or a hair pick, which is easier to carry). Flip some caps off of drone pupae, and look for some in the pink-eyed stage (younger ones are too soft), then skewer about 20 sideways through the thorax and pull them out for inspection (see photo). Then tap the frame over a white surface to dislodge mites remaining in the cells. This method is somewhat unreliable, since mites will not be evenly distributed, so you must sample several patches. You must inspect at least 100 pupae from various areas—more is better. Don’t forget that drone brood is a delicacy in many cultures!

However, meticulous researchers have found that sampling of drone brood is an unreliable indicator of total mite population. Charriere, et al (2003) state: “Our results showed that it is not possible to calculate the size of the varroa population parasitising a colony simply by examining the infestation rate of drone brood….The parasite load of drone cells was seen to vary from one- to six- times in the space of a week, without any relation to the actual varroa population.” Other researchers (Wilkinson and Smith, 2002), based upon computer modeling, suggest that one must treat at 15% drone infestation to avoid reaching excessive mite levels.

Taking a drone brood sample from a drone trap frame. We’re using a common hair pick.

Mites on drone brood. At least 12 mites in this photo.


Keep a close eye on your bees! Be aware of any colony that is not thriving, has spotty brood, or does not gain weight. If you’re seeing mites on the bees, you’ve probably already got a problem! The bees in badly infested colonies look dull, listless, and demoralized (how’s that for some scientific terms?). Tip the brood combs up and look for the mites’ bright white guanine deposits on the cell ceilings (your back to the sun, frame horizontal, top bar away from you). Watch for disease or stress symptoms. Especially watch for any sign of “curlywing” virus (DWV) in late summer—look for bees crawling on the ground, or on the combs, with deformed wings. At the first sign of DWV, get the mite level down!


Credits: Many thanks to the following for the use of their material:

The featured image of a varroa mite on a bee is from

The article first appeared in the Manx Independent, March 31, 2016, and is credited to John Turner on IOMToday.

The extract and photos come from


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