Varroa jacobsoni is a parasitic mite that has emerged as a serious pest of European honeybees (Apis mellifera) following a recent jump from its natural host, the Asian honeybee (Apis cerana).
In 2008, a bee pathogen survey in Papua New Guinea (PNG) found populations of V. jacobsoni (of the Java haplotype) reproducing for the first time on the drone and worker brood of the local A. mellifera and causing colony losses.
This new V. jacobsoni ‘strain’ was widespread in PNG, but not yet in neighbouring Papua (Indonesian province of western New Guinea) or Solomon Islands (east of PNG), where V. jacobsoni (of the Java haplotype) also reproduces on A. cerana. But interestingly, very small numbers of mites were found in Papua and Solomon Islands that were reproducing only on A. mellifera drone brood.
Australia is one of the last remaining places in the world not to have Varroa mites of bees, so it’s important to learn more about this mite in PNG and understand the risk to A. mellifera in Australia and around the world.