Draft operational plan for varroa control released

23 June 2000

The draft operational plan for the control of varroa was released today by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. 

This document is the second options paper released by MAF. The draft operational plan for eradication of varroa was released last week. Both papers were drafted by a team led by AgriQuality New Zealand Ltd, in accordance with specifications developed by the technical advisory group convened by MAF. Both papers will be used to advise Cabinet in its decision with respect to the government response to varroa.

The draft operational plans for eradication and control of varroa (respectively) are available on the MAF website.

MAF is accepting comments on both papers, and the National Beekeepers Association is co-ordinating responses from the beekeeping industry through its network of regional branches. NBA representatives have participated in the technical advisory group, and in the team led by AgriQuality.

The operational plan for control of varroa considers the potential ways to achieve the specified objectives of mitigating the effects of varroa on North Island beekeeping, and ensuring that the South Island remains free of varroa for as long as possible. The plan presents the options in a modular fashion, with each component costed separately.

The plan proposes two alternative programmes of surveillance to confirm the South Island’s freedom from varroa, and a series of measures to protect this status. Movement control of bees, hives and equipment from North to South Islands could be maintained, with continuing publicity to alert transport operators, beekeepers and members of the public to these restrictions.

Options are also included for an eradication programme in the event that mites are found in the South Island. The extent and cost of an eradication programme for a South Island incursion would depend upon how early the find was made, and where and when it was located.

The plan discusses various options for immediate control of varroa in the North Island, including two versions of a co-ordinated treatment strategy in those areas known to be currently infected. Co-ordinating treatments through a management agency is considered as a first year option to achieve maximum impact on current varroa populations. The pros and cons of co-ordinated treatment are considered, and balanced against allowing beekeepers to make their own decisions with regard to managing treatments.

A pest management strategy is discussed as a possible vehicle for administering a control programme over the longer term.

The plan includes a proposal for New Zealand-based research activities because overseas control methods may not be directly applicable here. This is due to differences in New Zealand beekeeping practices, climatic and floral conditions, honey bee strains, and the interaction of bee viruses present in New Zealand with varroa.

The goal of the research programme would be to produce a sustainable control strategy that minimises cost, chemical use, and the development of resistance in mites and residues in the products that are being produced.

The plan discusses an extension programme to help lessen the impact of the mite on New Zealand beekeeping, and on the horticultural and agricultural industries that rely on honey bees for pollination. Proposed activities within this extension programme include:

  • an initial training seminar for professional apiculturalists (using an overseas expert);
  • production and distribution of a varroa control booklet to all registered beekeepers;
  • queen breeding courses for South Island beekeepers to help them produce their own queens now that North Island queens are not available;
  • a variety of short courses presented over a 7 year period that are tailored to the various circumstances facing beekeepers in relation to varroa;
  • an on-going group extension programme for sharing of experiences and information on varroa control;
  • production and distribution of a New Zealand varroa control manual once New Zealand-based research is completed; and
  • encouragement of the use of pollination hive quality assurance services to ensure mite impacts do not result in reduced production of horticultural crops.

Copies of both operational plans are available from:

Lucy Martinez
MAF Biosecurity Authority
PO Box 2526

This is also the address for submissions to either or both papers.

For further information contact:

Gita Parsot, MAF Communications, telephone: 04 498 9806
Lin McKenzie, National Beekeepers Association Executive Member. 025-357-970

Contact MPI

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