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New tool for varroa mite control

New tool for varroa mite control

A new baiting system developed by HortResearch may help keep the South Island varroa free.

Over the last two years, HortResearch's apiculture team, led by Dr Mark Goodwin, has developed a baiting system that is attractive and toxic to honeybees. "Our findings indicate that it may be possible to eradicate the varroa mite when it arrives in the South Island by using the bait to poison and kill varroa-infested feral bees," he said.

The team completed a large-scale test of the method in an area near Culverden, Canterbury, to establish whether eradicating honey bees from an area is feasible.

Twenty honeybee colonies and nine bait stations containing sugar syrup and a toxic substance, not harmful to humans or other animals were placed throughout a 4 km square grid. Canterbury beekeepers played a major role by providing nucleus colonies and their time.

The trial was conducted in spring 2002 but was abandoned because of bad weather. However, it was repeated in autumn and produced much better results than expected. Although it was planned that the baiting would be carried out over six weeks all colonies were killed after one day of poisoning.

New colonies are now being moved into the area to see how long it needs to be kept bee free.

"These results indicate that eradication is technically feasible, but there are several other factors to be considered, most important one being how far varroa may have already spread", he said.

The project was funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).

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