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A New Bee Disease could be Released into NZ

A New Bee Disease could be Released into New Zealand

Members of the National Beekeepers Association are concerned that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry could allow the introduction of a new honey bee disease causing organism into New Zealand.

New Zealand beekeepers are still reeling from the ravages of the varroa bee mite that has killed most feral hives, reduced managed hives in the North Island by 22,000, and caused many beekeepers to give up beekeeping. Since Varroa arrived almost six years ago, the country has lost a total of 1,990 beekeepers, 3,171 apiaries and 27,314 hives from the industry. It is predicted that further decline will result from the importation of honey.

MAF has conducted a risk assessment as the first step in allowing to the import of foreign honeys into New Zealand despite that in their own assessment the honey will carry live European foulbrood (EFB) bacteria the causative agent of EFB disease.

Although the MAF risk assessment states that ‘There is no completely objective way of determining at what level honey becomes safe’ it goes on to conclude that having one live EFB bacteria in 300ml of honey is a safe concentration which will not infect New Zealand bees. This is without knowing the number of bacteria that may be carried in imported honey.

Should EFB disease become established in New Zealand beekeepers would need to feed antibiotics to control it. It is expected that hive numbers would decrease even further with a yet greater loss in the pollination services they provide. Overseas EFB is particularly devastating on hives used for commercial pollination.


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