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Varroa Pest Management Strategy outlined

Varroa Pest Management Strategy outlined

The Varroa Planning Group (VPG) has outlined its recommendations for the development of a pest management strategy for the destructive bee pest.

Project leader Dr Bruce Simpson, said the group focussed on measures to keep the South Island free of the Varroa mite.

“Restrictions on moving bees and bee keeping materials from the North Island to the South Island, that have been in place for the last three years, will be reviewed and tightened if necessary.

“An awareness programme highlighting actions people can take to help prevent Varroa being carried across Cook Strait will also be put in place,” he said.

Supporting these measures will be a South Island surveillance programme allowing the early detection and eradication of any possible incursion. This will involve testing up to 20,000 hives throughout the South Island every year.

Dr Simpson said that is was important that affected sectors realised the long term impact Varroa could have on their industries.

“If Varroa spread to the South Island it would have an estimated impact of $314 million over 35 years with 90% of that falling on the pastoral sector,” he said.

“Varroa would destroy most colonies of wild bees. The costs of control – up to $40 per hive – could force many South Island beekeepers out of business. However, much larger costs result from the reduction in pollination of clover, which means either a production loss in pastoral farming, or increased costs of oversowing clover seed or applying nitrogenous fertilisers.

“Production costs for horticultural and arable crops will also increase as they rely on hiring beehives for pollination. The kiwifruit industry in the North Island has already experienced pollination cost increases estimated at around $3 million per year as a result of Varroa,” Dr Simpson said.

The annual costs of the pest management strategy have been estimated by the VPG to be around $760,000. The VPG is discussing funding options with organisations representing affected industries.

The VPG has suggested that the costs to industry be controlled by having government accept responsibility for responding to any incursion of Varroa detected in the South Island. This proposal is being considered by MAF.

Results of surveillance in 2003 reveal Varroa is continuing to spread south of the existing control line in the North Island. In the last two weeks, Varroa as been reported in more than a dozen locations which were previously considered Varroa free. These include Hawera and Whangamomona in Taranaki, Tolaga Bay and Otoko in the Gisborne region, and Foxton, Levin and Otaki north of Wellington.

The VPG does not support maintaining North Island movement controls as they believe it is unlikely that any significant North Island areas will be free of varroa when the strategy comes into force. The VPG will discuss options for continued North Island controls with the Minister for Biosecurity when the current surveillance round is complete.

For more information please go to:

http:// http://www.maf.govt.nz/varroa

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