Hawaii farmers and beekeepers worry that an infestation of the tiny varroa mite on Oahu could spread to the rest of the island chain and endanger its bee population.

If the varroa mites aren't stopped, they could eventually kill off as many as nine out of 10 wild hives.

A drop in the bee population could threaten crops that depend on them for pollination and cause problems for the state's $1.5 million honey business.

The state Department of Agriculture is proposing a plan that would eradicate infested hives using a $650,000 appropriation by the Legislature to pay beekeepers for their lost hives and to help cover the cost of establishing new ones with healthy queen bees.

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The state is also considering bee quarantines around airports and harbors to limit their spread, said Neil Reimer, an entomologist and plant pest control branch chief at the department.

"I think we can assume that this [mite infestation] could be serious, but I don't think we know how bad it will be," said Carl Evensen, an extension specialist with the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.