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Commitment to lessening the impact of varroa

24 May 2002 - For immediate release

Strong commitment to lessening the impact of parasitic varroa

New funding of $589,000 in Budget 2002 for varroa research demonstrated a strong commitment to provide support to lessen the parasitic bee mite's impact, Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said new research would allow further development of varroa control strategies. This should help the beekeeping industry as it moved into the next phase of the management of the varroa problem.

Don Bell, president of the National Beekeepers Association, says the research will help to overcome a lack of data about varroa in New Zealand. "We have to remember that varroa is a new pest in New Zealand and development of strategies to cope with it have been hampered by a lack of information in key areas. Given the severity of the current and future economic impact of varroa to our industry and to the primary production sector, research into how varroa behaves in New Zealand will be money well spent.

Four projects are already underway and have received one further year of funding to provide robust data. This will allow continuation of research into varroa population dynamics, treatment thresholds, development of an integrated pest management (IPM) programme and organic treatment application methods.

MAF Varroa Programme Coordinator Paul Bolger says the remainder of the research will cover topics such as measuring resistance of the varroa to chemical controls and initiating a breeding programme for varroa-tolerant bees.

"We expect this research to make a definite contribution to assist beekeepers manage the impact of varroa in New Zealand. Investigating the potential for tolerance to varroa through selective breeding is a particuarly exciting prospect and one we will be following closely."

Independently of this research, beekeepers are also debating the possible benefits of sourcing genetic material from breeding programmes in other countries. New Zealand has had closed borders for bee imports for over 30 years.

Varroa was first detected in New Zealand in April 2000. The government funded an initial response and has contributed to an interim management plan that has focused on slowing the spread of varroa and mitigating its impact.


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