More sightings in the north of the varroa zone

23 April 2000

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry reports visual sightings of varroa mites by field teams in two apiary sites within the northern boundary zone to the known infected area; at Orewa and Kumeu. MAF programme co-ordinator Dr Matthew Stone says that Apistan diagnostic strips have been placed in the suspect hives to allow laboratory confirmation, and results will be available in approximately 2 days. Sampling is also occurring is apiary sites surrounding the suspect apiaries. If confirmed, these would be the most northern infected apiaries so far detected.

He also reports tracing has identified a high risk movement of bees to Oamaru, North Otago in the South Island. A hobby beekeeper moved 2 hives from Bombay late last year. Apistan strips will be laid in the hives in Oamaru, and the apiary site will be designated a Restricted Placed until investigation is completed. On Saturday it was reported that tests on an apiary at Middlemarch, Otago for varroa have shown no evidence of the mite.

Dr Stone says that investigating high risk movements to the South Island is given high priority. MAF intends to contact all 1300 South Island beekeepers in order to establish if there have been any other high risk movements from the infected areas of the North Island. To date, the Middlemarch and Oamaru apiary sites have been identified by tracing movements from North Island beekeepers. Information from South Island beekeepers themselves regarding bees or hives moved from North Island sources in the last 3 years would ensure a complete tracing exercise is completed. Any information on such movements can be passed onto MAF via the exotic disease hotline 0800 809 966.

12 field teams continue their work today. Identifying and testing apiary sites within the known infected zone of South Auckland and the Hauraki Plains, as well as further sampling within the southern and northern boundary zones, will continue for the next few days. This work is important to allow complete tracing of high risk movements from infected apiaries.

During the week the focus will move to establishing that varroa has not spread to the outside of the boundary zones. A sampling strategy has been developed targeting apiary sites on the basis risk factors, in particular the potential for spread by beekeepers moving equipment and hives between their various apiary sites. Apiary sites outside the known infected area owned by beekeepers that also have sites in the known infected area will be identified and sampled. A sample of other North Island beekeepers based upon the geographic distribution of their apiary sites will also be tested.

To date, 10,022 hives on 655 apiaries have been inspected for varroa mite. 38 apiary sites owned by 26 beekeepers are positive for varroa.

The Ministry expects that the movement control provisions for the North Island will be reviewed by 28 April 2000, at which time a clear indication of the mites spread will be known. The entire North Island of New Zealand was declared a controlled area by MAF earlier this week to stop the spread and movement of the varroa mite.

Information on the varroa mite is available on the MAFBNZ website.


Matthew Stone, Programme Co-ordinator Exotic Disease Response, MAF Biosecurity Authority. Ph 025-332-509, N/A84.
Lin McKenzie, National Beekeepers Association Executive Member. 025-357-970.
John Hayes, Communications Adviser, MAF. 04-904-1827.

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