Hard work by industry keeps bee colony losses low

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Media contact: MPI media team

Telephone: 029 894 0328

Email: media@mpi.govt.nz

Bee colony losses in New Zealand continue to be significantly lower than many other countries, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries' (MPI) third annual survey on bee colony losses.

Annual hive losses were reported at 9.84% overall.

MPI's biosecurity surveillance and incursion investigation (aquatic and environment health) manager, Dr Michael Taylor, says this is low when compared to international results, which consistently see rates well over 10%. 

"Many of the pests and diseases that negatively impact beehives overseas are not present in New Zealand, and we have a robust biosecurity system to prevent them from coming into the country and deal with them if they do."

MPI contracted Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research to conduct the New Zealand Colony Loss Survey. More than 2,060 beekeepers completed the 2017 survey, representing 30% of production colonies in New Zealand. The survey looks at the state of New Zealand's honey bee colonies and the challenges beekeepers face.

In New Zealand, the reported rate of losses has stayed relatively stable from 2016 which saw 9.78% of beehive losses but down from 2015 where the loss rate was 10.73%.

The leading reported causes of hive loss in 2017 included:

  • Queen problems (such as death, disappearance, or not laying eggs).
  • Suspected varroa mite.
  • Suspected starvation of bees (weather and other causes).
  • Wasps (killing bees, eat pupae and steal honey). 

Losses to American foulbrood disease, natural disasters, Argentine ants, and theft were also contributing factors, but less commonly reported.

Dr Taylor says the Bee Colony Loss Survey provides baseline information for monitoring managed honey bee colony loss and survival over time.

"The information from the survey is a valued resource for the other ongoing work MPI undertakes with the beekeeping industry to promote good colony health and bee-keeping practice, as well as the Bee Pathogen Programme which looks at the prevalence of honey bee diseases and parasites already in New Zealand."

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