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  • Writer's pictureMinistry of Primary Industries

Biosecurity Champions Helping to Protect our Bees

Each year many beekeepers open their hives for surveillance inspection, playing an important role in ensuring exotic pests and diseases are kept out of New Zealand. The National Apiculture Surveillance Programme (NASP) is undertaken by AsureQuality Limited every autumn, on behalf of Biosecurity New Zealand. Several beekeepers at the forefront detail the programme and how it endeavours to protect honey bees and thus beekeeper livelihoods.

By Bernard J Phiri, Byron Taylor (MPI) and Marco Gonzalez (AFB PMP Agency)

MPI’s Bee Biosecurity Visual ID Guide is an excellent resource for all beekeepers, so that they can be on the lookout for exotic pests and diseases every time they work a hive.

From March to May, apiary inspectors visit areas designated as high-risk zones to carry out surveillance activities. These zones are the most likely entry points for exotic pathogens. They include areas around New Zealand’s main airports, seaports, tourist destinations, and transitional facilities. Areas of high hive concentration, such as those with crops pollinated by honey bees, are also classified as ‘high-risk’ zones. Inspectors go to 350 apiaries within the zones to check for signs of exotic pathogens. They also collect samples for testing at Biosecurity New Zealand’s Plant Health and Environment Laboratory.

To make things simpler for beekeepers, inspection data is shared between NASP and the National American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan (AFB PMP). The data gathered during surveillance is strictly confidential and only used for the purpose of monitoring and detecting biosecurity risks.

Why is the surveillance conducted?

NASP’s primary goals are:

  • To detect exotic pests or diseases early enough before they can establish in Aotearoa. This gives New Zealand the best chance of nipping exotic pests and diseases in the bud before they have a chance to establish.

  • To help New Zealand meet its international reporting obligations and attain country freedom status for trade and export (with respect to exotic pests and diseases). This ensures Aotearoa can access high value export markets for its bee products.

Getting good information allows us to provide the support needed to beekeepers to protect their hives and to protect the apiculture industry from new harmful exotic organisms.

What is under surveillance?

The surveillance conducted by NASP looks for a wide range of exotic pests and diseases that could cause harm to the beekeeping industry. These include small hive beetle, various bee mites and European foulbrood. This is in addition to keeping an eye out for more ‘under-the-radar’ types of bees that have undesirable traits such as Africanised, Cape and some Asian honey bees.

Be on the look out for tropilaelaps mites – not yet in New Zealand but a serious threat to honey bee colony health should it arrive.

The inspectors are also trained to identify and report any AFB infections they find when carrying out their work under NASP.

Who inspects the apiaries?

All apiary inspectors are experienced beekeepers warranted by Biosecurity New Zealand as Authorised Persons (Level 2) under the Biosecurity Act. They are trained, operate confidentially and are guided by an Apicultural Officer. The inspectors attend a refresher training course each year to keep their knowledge and skills fresh.

Are any hives outside these zones inspected?

Apiaries who supply bees for export, but are outside the identified high-risk zones, are part of the programme too. Each year 300 of these apiaries send samples of bees for exotic pest and disease testing as part of the export clearance process. Over 2000 apiaries are also inspected under the AFB control programme.

What can you do?

The annual inspection of hives plays an extremely important role in protecting New Zealand’s apiculture industry. You can support the future of New Zealand apiculture by allowing your hives to be inspected if they are in the high-risk zone and selected for surveillance.

Even if you’re not in a high-risk zone or exporting bees, you can still help…

When you’re working your hives, be on the lookout for signs of exotic pests or diseases. There might be an unusual organism, a disease you have not seen before or bees dying in large numbers. Should you notice any of these signs, you should immediately notify Biosecurity New Zealand through the Exotic Pests and Disease Hotline: 0800 80 9966.

Be on the look out for small hive beetle – not yet arrived in New Zealand but knocking on our door from Australia.

These notifications complement the work of apiary inspectors and are a vital part of our biosecurity system. If you would like to know more about signs of pests and diseases of honey bees, Biosecurity New Zealand’s Bee Biosecurity website is a great starting point.

Please keep your information in the apiary database as accurate as possible at all times via the HiveHub available at This will ensure that apiaries are selected for inspection from current information and will limit the time taken to address incorrect apiary information.

Finally, a special thanks to all the beekeepers that cooperate with our dedicated apiary inspectors during the surveillance season. Biosecurity New Zealand and AsureQuality Limited very much appreciate your time and support, and our honey bees do too.


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