New Zealand bees could soon be at risk from pest infestation, warns an expert

New Zealand is losing its bee colonies by the thousands, a beekeeping expert warns that bees could soon be endangered without human intervention.

The latest figures from the Department of Primary Industries (MPI) show that New Zealand has lost over 90,000 bee colonies in the past two winter seasons.

Suspected causes include varroa mite infestation and toxic exposure.

Jessie Whitfield, founder of Bees Up Top, spends most of her spring and summer rescuing hundreds of swarms of bees from exterminators and restoring beehives on the roofs and in the backyards of Auckland families and businesses.

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She manages the beehives, extracts the honey and then delivers it in labeled jars.

She said that due to varroa mite parasites and the American Foul Brood (AFB) – a deadly bacterial disease for honey bees – bees would no longer survive without human help.

“Every year a beehive has to be treated twice with a special drug to fight parasites and diseases. Bees left in logs or in the wild will eventually die, “Whitfield told Stuff.

Throughout spring and summer, Bees Up Top rescues swarms of bees that end up in back gardens.

Delivered / Joel McDowell

Throughout spring and summer, Bees Up Top rescues swarms of bees that end up in back gardens.

According to information on the MPI website, antibiotics used to treat common diseases in honey bee colonies such as AFB have developed resistance over time.

Detective dogs were previously used to track down bacteria at an early stage, and in 2020 MPI invested $ 50,000 in a project aimed at helping train-tracking dogs reliably detect AFB by creating a “smell picture” of the disease.

But if New Zealand continues to lose bee colonies at the current rate, the fashion, dairy and meat industries will be hard hit, Whitfield said.

“Bees pollinate cotton plants and flowers like clover and alfalfa, and these are the things that cows and sheep eat. It could really affect our clothes and our dairy and meat industries if we keep losing bees.

Jessie Whitfield brings a swarm of rescue bees to a roof.

Delivered / Joel McDowell

Jessie Whitfield brings a swarm of rescue bees to a roof.

“They also pollinate a third of the world’s food, which is basically every fruit and vegetable that has a core and a core. Without bees, we would live on wind-pollinated foods like grain and rice. she [bees] Give people a healthy diet. “

The Ministry of Primary Industries has published a handbook that provides practical guidance on strategic bee-feeding planting to ensure a wide range of flowering plants in spring and autumn, when the bees are most at risk of pollen and nectar shortages.

Dr. Angus McPherson, Trees for Bees’ Farming Advisor and Trustee, said in a statement released by the MPI that “Bees around the world are exposed to a variety of threats, including pests, diseases and pesticides.”

“The best weapon against these threats is to provide our bees with a steady supply of food to keep them healthy and strong,” he said.

Steve Penno, director of investment programs for the MPI, said planting vital bee forage as part of business management would ensure a viable and sustainable future for Aotearoa’s bees, beekeepers and farmers.

“The health of honeybees is vital as bees are the foundation of agricultural production in New Zealand’s economy.”

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