Countries that export bees and bee products are required to conduct apiculture surveillance programmes to meet disease reporting and sanitary control requirements of the OIE (Office International des Epizooties) to facilitate international trade. A surveillance programme also aids in early detection of honey bee pests and diseases including any new introductions. One pest is the Honey Bee Tracheal Mite (HBTM) Acarapis woodi (Acari: Tarsonemidae), an obligate endoparasite of honey bees. This microscopic mite was discovered in the 1919 in the UK (Rennie et al., 1921). The identification and detection of the mite led to a law from the US Department of Agriculture restricting all live honey bee imports into the USA in 1922 (Phillips, 1923). Despite this restriction, HBTM was first seen in the USA by beekeepers in Texas in 1984 and the prairie provinces of Canada in 1985. Thereafter, A. woodi spread throughout the USA and most Canadian provinces, facilitated by commercial beekeepers transporting bees for pollination, and the sale of mite-infested package bees.
In addition, infested swarms, drifting bees, and the worldwide distribution of A. mellifera have contributed to the spread of this mite. Although its current range is not fully known, the HBTM has successfully been established in many countries in most continents, including Europe, Asia, parts of Africa, and North and South America (Ellis and Munn, 2005). To date, it is not known to occur in Australia, New Zealand or Scandinavia (Denmark, et al., 2000; Hoy, 2011). Recent work by Kojima et al. (2011a) reported A. woodi was found on Asian honey bees, A. cerana japonica, in Japan.
From what we currently know, A. mellifera is the original host of HBTM, as this mite has only been recorded on other Apis species following the introduction of A. mellifera to Asia. The exact causes of the loss of colonies infested with HBTM are still unknown. This problem is exacerbated by the lack of unique symptoms associated with tracheal mite.