• Patrick Dawkins

How Far and Wide do Our Hives Travel?

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), with the help of Massey University, are undertaking what is deemed a crucial first step in improving any potential biosecurity incursion response needed by the apicultural industry. Research, led by Massey University senior lecturer in veterinary epidemiology Dr Emilie Vallee, will be centred around a survey of beekeepers, calling on them to provide information regarding their biosecurity practices.

Massey University senior lecturer in veterinary epidemiology Dr Emilie Vallee who will lead research into Kiwi beekeeper's biosecurity practices.

For New Zealand beekeepers, presently watching on as Australia grapples with a Varroa destructor incursion, the importance of being prepared for the next apiculture enemy is pressing.

MPI’s decision to task Massey with the latest research has not been brought about by Australia’s current predicament, or regular flare ups around the globe of Foot and Mouth disease in cattle though. Rather, it has been in the works for years, according to Vallee.

“For any animal, understanding movement is critical to understanding transmission. For cattle we supposedly have systems in place to know where any animal is at any time, but with bees there is no equivalent and we know very little. So, the idea behind the research is to help us understand how far, how often, and when in the year beehives are likely to move. Then, should a new bee pathogen enter the country, we will be able to adjust the response appropriately, knowing whether transmission is likely to be localised, or more extensive,” Vallee says.

“We know movements occur, but we don’t know to what extent or how frequent they are. It is not just a New Zealand problem, but potentially World-wide as we have not seen any work of this nature published. We need to know what part movements are likely to play in any transmission. That is hive movements from apiary to apiary, or hive components or any other equipment between hives and apiaries and if they are getting cleaned down.”

The tropilaelaps mite, seen here on an adult honey bee, is one of many potential invasive pests that a Massey University study, backed by MPI, aims to improve the readiness of New Zealand for.

The research is to be based around a survey of beekeepers, both commercial operators or with smaller hobby hive holdings. Any information gathered will be presented to MPI in a generalised form, meaning the Government department wont see beekeeper’s individual response, Vallee points out.

The research will take the form of a “scoping study” and Vallee says they are aware that beekeepers might not be able to provide highly detailed answers to all the questions. It is a starting point for further work though, work which could ultimately prevent unwanted intruders, such as tropilaelaps mites or small hive beetle, taking hold in New Zealand.

“You don’t have to look far to see the value in an effective biological incursion response, and we really need beekeepers all over the country to complete this survey if we are to improve the readiness of the apiculture industry.”

To complete the online survey, run by Massey University, visit: https://massey.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3Pi2aultN3A2QEm

Any queries about the study can be made to Dr. Emilie Vallee via email E.Vallee@massey.ac.nz or via phone, 06 951 9159.


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