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Rise in NZ’s bee colony losses shows need for attention

Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) says a gradual rise in New Zealand’s bee colony loss rates highlights the need for ongoing attention to bee health issues.

“We are concerned to see a gradual rise in the colony loss rates over the past four years, from 9.6% in 2016 to 10.2% in 2018,” says Barry Foster, Chair of ApiNZ’s Science and Research Focus Group and member of the NZ Colony Loss Survey advisory group.

“While the national colony loss rates remain significantly lower than many other countries, we cannot afford to be complacent given the importance of honey bees, particularly in relation to New Zealand’s agriculture and horticulture sectors.”

Mr Foster said that the leading causes of bee loss, such as queen problems, suspected varroa, wasps and suspected starvation, were all similar to the previous years’ surveys and highlighted the need for ongoing education and research into critical bee health.

“With the strong growth in our industry over the past few years we have seen a significant increase in new beekeepers entering the industry from 6,558 in January 2016 to 9,429 in January 2019, a 44% increase.”

To assist in getting new beekeepers up to speed on how to effectively manage bee health, ApiNZ has provided a range of tools and resources available through the New to Beekeeping webpage and strongly encourages new beekeepers to learn from experienced beekeepers through their local beekeeping club or hub.

Members of the ApiNZ Science and Research focus group will be analysing the full data set of results from the 2018 survey against surveys from previous years. From this they hope to gauge any trends and to highlight any significant changes that they can then inform industry to assist with ongoing research priorities.

“The survey is a critical tool for our industry as it helps us gain a better understanding of trends and emerging challenges around colony losses,” said Mr Foster. “This helps steer the direction of further research and other actions needed.

“It is good to see growing industry support and involvement in the survey, with 3,655 respondents from both the commercial and non-commercial sectors. That’s a big increase on last year’s numbers at just over 2,000 and shows that beekeepers value this survey and the results it gives.”

The full report can be read here on the MPI website.

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