• John Luxton
Associate Minister of Agriculture

Associate Minister for Agriculture, Hon John Luxton, today released the proposed National Pest Management Strategy for the major bee disease American foulbrood for public comment.

In setting a goal of eliminating American foulbrood through the use of a pest management strategy, the National Beekeepers, Association is taking a proactive step to control a disease of significance to its members, Mr Luxton said today.

Without the proposed strategy the sections of the Apiaries Act pertaining to American foulbrood would expire on 1 October 1998 and there would be no legal obligation on beekeepers to control the disease in their hives.

Mr Luxton noted, however, that despite wide consultation there were a number of beekeepers, both hobbyist and commercial, who had indicated their dissatisfaction with the proposal.

The notification process is intended to provide those who oppose the proposed strategy, or parts of it, with the opportunity to raise their concerns to me, as an independent body, the Minister said.

American foulbrood is a bacterial disease specific to the honey bee larvae; it did not originate in America, but was named in that country. The honey from a hive which has the disease is harmless to humans, but when bees feed infected honey to their larvae, the larvae die. eventually the entire colony will die because there are not enough baby bees hatching.

When this happens, robber, bees may come from other hives and steal the honey that is left, thus spreading the infection to their own hive. Given that bees can fly 3-5 kilometres from their hives, this is a real problem for beekeepers trying to keep their own hives free of the disease. It can also be easily spread by transferring equipment from one hive to another.

American foulbrood is widely established in both managed and wild honey bee colonies throughout New Zealand. Clinical cases (i.e. colonies showing visible symptoms) are reported in approximately 1% of beehives and 5% of apiaries in this country annually. However, the true incidence is higher because not all cases are found or reported.

More... The purpose of the proposed strategy is to eliminate American foulbrood in beehives in New Zealand in order to:

minimise production losses associated with American foulbrood in honey bees;
minimise the potential for American foulbrood to affect export returns for honey, bee products and live bees; and
minimise the potential for decreases in profitability for beekeeping enterprises, and for horticultural enterprises growing crops which requirepaid pollination services from honey bees.

The proposed strategy would principally involve measures to eliminate the spread of the disease among honey bees and beehives.
It would place duties on all beekeepers including requirements for apiary registration, apiary identification, beehive inspection for clinical symptoms of American foulbrood, the reporting and destruction of beehives found to save clinical cases of the disease, and the supplying of an annual statutory declaration of apiary ownership and occurrences of the disease. These measures would be implemented throughout New Zealand.

Submissions on the proposed strategy close with the Associate Minister of Agriculture on 14 August 1997.