Tuesday, 01 June 2021 07:55

Major sting for beekeepers

Written by  David Anderson
Up to 80% death rates in some hives have been reported throughout much of the North Island. Up to 80% death rates in some hives have been reported throughout much of the North Island.

A mystery disease is reportedly currently ravaging parts of the North Island bee population with reports of up to 80% death rates in some hives.

It is understood the problem is widespread throughout much of the North Island, with beekeepers as far south as Wellington reporting issues - although most appear to be in Waikato, Bay of Plenty and central North Island regions.

Apiarists are unsure of the exact cause or extent of the problem, but possible scenarios being discussed include resistant varroa mites, increased wasp predation or a disease that started in the kiwifruit pollination industry.

The huge bee death rates were confirmed by NZ Beekeepers Inc president Jane Lorimer.

She told Rural News that the full impact of the problem would not be known until spring.

"If we have a mild winter and a good spring, then hopefully beekeepers will be able to repopulate their hives and things can get back to normal," she explained. "However, if numbers don't recover, then both honey producers and the wider agricultural sector could have a serious problem."

The problem has potentially massive implications for both the bee industry and NZ's wider agri-sector. The UN's agricultural advisory arm, the FAO, recently estimated the value of pollination services to global food production is worth up to US$600 billion annually.

NZ's honey exports were valued at $505.5 million in 2020, up 46% on 2019. This means such a hit to the country's bee population would cause large-scale financial losses to the nation's beekeepers.

Meanwhile, the impact on pollination services on the country's horticulture and pasture sectors is enormous - estimated to be worth around $5 billion a year.

Lorimer says low honey prices (with only the manuka varieties fetching good returns) may have led some beekeepers to cut back on varoa mite treatment or use less effective, cheaper products and this could be the cause of any reinvasion of hives.

She says Apiculture NZ is aware of the issue, but did not know if it had advised MPI and other sector bodies of the potential looming problem.

Meanwhile, Lorimer is hoping that a mild winter and spring will see an end to the issue and the repopulation of North Island beehives.

"It's not dire straits yet; time will tell," she warns.

More like this

Sticky times for small beekeepers

Smaller beekeeper operations are struggling with non-manuka honey returns falling from $10-$12/kg two years ago to about $4/kg this year.

National

Wide price range 'realistic'

Fonterra's wide forecast milk price range for the new season is realistic, says BNZ senior economist Doug Steel.

Machinery & Products

Lady muck really does suck

As anyone will attest to – if they’re married to someone with horses, have kids with ponies or are foolish…

The perfect workhorse

Hastings-based Kleer Contractors provides 24-hour machine work and labour for a local food processing plant.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

No thanks!

OPINION: A mate of this old mutt's almost choked on his dog tucker when he came across the musings of…

More sunlight

OPINION: Your canine crusader hears that not all is rosy in the world of supposed rural sector congeniality.

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter