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Bee Import Backed

Bee Import Backed

A new breed of bee being introduced to New Zealand will help in the fight against the devastating Varroa bee mite, said Lin McKenzie of the New Zealand Bee Industry Group (NZBIG).

"Our members support the importation of the carniolan honey bee. We are open to new strains of bees which could have a higher tolerance to Varroa," he said.

A Northland beekeeper has won approval from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to import semen to breed the carniolan honey bee. The European bee is believed to have a higher tolerance for the killer Varroa mite after decades of breeding efforts.

"New Zealand has a very closed bee stock. We could do with some hybrid vigour in the bee population," said Mr McKenzie. "Bees are the same as any livestock. They can be improved by crossing them with other varieties."

No bees have been imported officially into New Zealand for more than 50 years.

Though fumigants are effective against Varroa, they are a short term fix.

"We expect Varroa to become resistant to fumigants in a very short space of time. There is no other defence unless we can develop some sort of genetic trait that allows the bees to deal with Varroa," he said.

Varroa, an external parasite that feeds on the blood of adult and young bees, was found in New Zealand in 2000. Heavy infestations wipe out an entire bee colony.

Mr McKenzie, an executive member of NZBIG, an industry group of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc), conceded that the carniolan bee was more likely to swarm.

"It is possible that an average New Zealander in their lifetime might see a bee swarm once. After the introduction of carniolan, it might be twice. Swarms may seem intimidating, but they are not usually dangerous to humans unless provoked," he said.

"Now we have Varroa, changes must be made to the way we manage bees."

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