Health check for bees to begin

by Anonymous Author

Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor is urging the Selwyn’s beekeepers to complete a survey checking the health of bee stocks.

Bee colony losses in New Zealand continue to be lower than many other countries; however, annual hive losses have been reported at 9.84% overall compared to international results, which consistently see rates at more than 10%.

Mr O’Connor said they are urging beekeepers in Selwyn and around the country to take part in the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Colony Loss and Survival survey.

“Pollination underpins our primary industries, and the apiculture sector estimates the bees’ busy work is worth $5 billion a year to the New Zealand economy. Bees are also vital visitors to our gardens and parks.

“The MPI Colony Loss and Survival survey is an important part of the work the Government and beekeepers do together to understand bee health, losses and beekeeping practice.

“Typically only a third of the hard-working apiculture sector of nearly 8,000 registered beekeepers, who look after nearly 900,000 hives, complete the survey. A united sector builds resilience and can take action on the big issues such as hive overstocking rates, access to floral resources, queen bee performance, seasonal variability in climate and production and pest and disease management.”

Mr O’Connor said while bee colony losses in New Zealand are lower than many other countries, they need to monitor trends and collect as much information as possible to protect our bees.

“Working with the thriving manuka honey industry, we recently introduced the science definition to protect the integrity of exports, and I strongly believe there is more value to extract from our other native honeys,” he said.

“We need to work together to protect the long-term viability of the sector and get more from what we do now.”

He said the survey is being held now — as losses are anticipated over winter because there are very few nectar sources at this time of year and give MPI the most complete picture.

“Bees are solely reliant on the stocks of honey they have accumulated during summer or supplementary feeding from beekeepers.

“Honey reserves need to be kept high enough to ensure the colony can stay warm and survive. Even in the absence of any disease, there are likely to be colony losses.”

Reasons for colony losses include queen problems, such as death, disappearance or not laying eggs; management of the varroa mite; suspected starvation of bees (weather and other causes); and wasps and other bee-robbing behaviours. Registered beekeepers will receive the survey from Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research in September. For more information email apiculture@mpi.govt.nz.