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Saving South Island from varroa mite

Saving South Island from varroa mite???

Bee wars draw the Strait line… Research into ways to fight varroa has extended to keep the South Island varroa-free.

This week a trial will commence to determine whether feral honeybee colonies can be eradicated from areas in the South Island. This information will be used to assess the feasibility of eradicating the honeybee mite, varroa, when it arrives in the South Island. Varroa has now been found in the Wellington region.

Research conducted almost two years ago, after the initial finding of varroa in New Zealand, resulted in HortResearch developing a baiting system that is attractive and toxic to honeybees. Both factors are essential requirements for successful eradication. However, field-testing has been limited so the system's success on a larger scale is not yet known.

Michelle Taylor from HortResearch's Apiculture team will conduct the trial in an area near Hanmer, North Canterbury. Twenty nucleus colonies will be placed throughout a 2km square grid and bait stations containing sugar syrup and a toxic substance, not harmful to humans or other animals, will be used to establish whether eradicating honey bees from an area is feasible.

This trial is high priority for the Canterbury branch of the National Beekeepers Association (NBA) who are playing a major role by providing nucleus colonies and their time.

The trial relies on the bees foraging and then finding the bait stations to be the most attractive food source in the area. The success of the trial is influenced by both additional food sources, which reduce the attractiveness of the bait stations, and wet and cold weather, which affects the bees foraging behaviour. Early spring is therefore the most effective time to assess the feasibility of eradication.

When varroa arrives in the South Island MAF will need to decide how to respond, and this trial aims to determine whether eradication is a feasible option. There are also several other factors that would need to be considered prior to attempting varroa eradication from the South Island.

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