An application by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to extend the use of a neonicotinoid insecticide fatal to honey bees has drawn opposition from New Zealand Beekeeping Inc (NZBI), who cite concerns to both honey bees and native insects.
Brown marmorated sting bug (BMSB) is one of the highest-risk biosecurity threats currently facing New Zealand, as it can cause significant damage to many important horticultural crops. It is also a significant social nuisance pest that can adversely impact personal wellbeing. Therefore, MPI is looking to beef-up its incursion response with an application to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to reassess the use of Actara®, a registered insecticide with the active ingredient thiamethoxam.
The application seeks approval to make changes to its use in biosecurity emergency situations, by increasing the number of applications allowed per year from four to 19 and allowing the use of Actara where bees are foraging on plants that are in flower or likely to flower within an incursion response scenario.
NZBI, among others, has opposed the application, citing concerns for the beekeeping environment.
“Indiscriminate application of chemicals is likely to have a detrimental effect of bees it contacts or bees that forage on the plants the spray contacts … We also consider the use of Actara in the manner envisaged by this application will have detrimental effects on other insect life, including native and endangered insects,” an NZBI submission to the EPA states.
Fellow industry body Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) met with MPI in 2018, prior to the application being made, and recognised the need for an effective incursion response against BDSM. During that meeting, potential mitigation options, such as moving managed colonies away from areas of Actara application, were discussed.
During a panel discussion on the application on March 30, MPI noted there are no known established populations of BMSB within New Zealand. However, it is intercepted at the border on a “very regular basis” and thus an organised incursion response plan, including wider use of Actara, will likely be needed in future.
NZBI have also recognised the need for the best possible response, but requested that any extended use of Actara be limited to areas of identified incursion only, and that if hives are required to be moved out of such zones, then there be a plan put in place to provide compensation to beekeepers and potentially growers if pollination is compromised. They are also concerned the extended use of Actara would amount to “certain damage” to honey bees, while providing “uncertain success” in containing BMSB.
A decision making committee of scientists Dr Andrea Forde, Dr Phil Lester and Dr Kerry Laing is considering the application. No timeline for a decision is in place.
MPI’s application has been supported by Horticulture New Zealand, Federated Farmers, New Zealand Winegrowers and Ngāi Tahu, and was opposed by GE Free New Zealand as well as NZBI.