8 Jun 2013

Beekeepers suffering heavy losses from varroa

6:14 am on 8 June 2013

Beekeepers are continuing to suffer high losses from the varroa honey bee parasite.

Federated Farmers bee industry group conference in Queenstown this week heard reports that some apiaries have lost up to a fifth of their hives .

The deadly mite has been established in the North Island for more than a decade and has spread as far south as Bluff.

The bee group's chair, John Hartnell, says some South Island beekeepers are still learning how to manage the mite.

He says numbers are down 15% to 18% in some cases which he says is a combination of a fairly weak autumn a year ago and the mite starting to have an impact on hives.

Mr Hartnell says a national bee health survey beginning in spring will provide a more accurate assessment of bee losses and what's causing them besides varroa.

But he says despite those losses and the wiping out of feral colonies, the number of managed hives has increased.

"If we look back to the year 2000, we probably had between the wild population and the managed population probably around 600,000 hives. varroa took out half of those, so we dropped back to around 300,000 and are building up again now."

He says hive numbers are now close to 435,000.

The National Beekeepers Association which celebrates its centenary this year, is holding its conference at Ashburton later this month.