Biosecurity NZ’s annual survey shows increase in hive losses

More beekeepers than ever before responded to Biosecurity New Zealand’s seventh annual Winter Colony Loss survey.

This level of involvement and our beekeeper’s transparency in self-reporting shows how seriously they take biosecurity and the value of Biosecurity New Zealand’s support in strengthening the bee industry.

“Strong biosecurity systems and management of pests and diseases are essential to production and the data gathered this year will help beekeepers identify where they need to focus their management efforts,” says Dr Hall.

The Winter Colony Loss survey is conducted by Manaaki Whenua Landcare New Zealand to provide Biosecurity New Zealand with data to ensure support is directed where it’s most useful for the bee industry.

This year’s survey showed that some 13.6% of beehives were lost over winter 2021. The increase of 2.3% on 2020’s results is closely attributed to a growth in varroa mite and related complications.

“While these numbers are worth exploring, we’re still seeing New Zealand’s winter colony loss rates are far less than our counterparts are finding in countries like the USA and Canada. Varroa mite is a pest that can be managed and we’re looking at new ways to support industry in dealing with the ongoing challenge of varroa.”

In responding to the survey, most beekeepers reported that their current varroa treatments are effective, but that they lose colonies if they get the timing of the treatment wrong, under-dose or that they pick up varroa from reinvasion from other colonies. This year’s survey also found not all beekeepers had treated for varroa.

As a result of the survey findings, Biosecurity New Zealand has begun a collaborative education campaign with the beekeeping industry, to raise awareness on how to tackle varroa mites and other biosecurity threats.

“We’re reinforcing that beekeepers need to apply treatments available to keep the mite under control, follow manufacturer’s instructions, and frequently monitor mite levels so quick intervention can be made.

“It’s the right season now to be alert to the needs of their bees and make a plan to combat varroa ahead of time. From what beekeepers are telling us – timing of treatment and monitoring for reinvasion is crucial.”

Dr Hall says that as well as the education campaign, Biosecurity New Zealand has funded a new research project to better understand how varroa treatments are used in New Zealand and where gaps in knowledge may be. This research will begin later this year.

“2021 saw more beekeepers registered ever than in New Zealand’s history. With this kind of growth, particularly in smaller operations and hobbyists, our support is essential to ensure this primary industry is equipped with the best information. This 2-pronged work will help them know what biosecurity risks to look out for and how to manage them.”

Participation in the online survey is voluntary. Beekeepers are asked about:

      • losses of hives (and causes) over winter
      • queen bee health
      • monitoring and treatment for mites (Varroa)
      • feeding supplements used
      • floral sources providing significant nectar flow
      • shares of colonies in pollination and honey production
      • broodcomb replacement poli

Source:  Biosecurity New Zealand  

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog