Varroa mite confirmed on nine properties within South Auckland

13 April 2000

Nine properties within the South Auckland controlled area have been confirmed to be infected with the bee mite, varroa. Two other properties outside of the controlled area also suspected of having varroa.

Of the properties outside the control area, one is on Otago, the other is in Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty. Both properties have had restricted place notices placed on them. This means no movement of live bees, hives or bee products or equipment can be move in or out of either property.

One property was identified after a commercial beekeeping operation, selling honey bees throughout New Zealand, was found to be contaminated with the varroa mite. A trace back of live bees from the commercial property led MAF to an Otago property. The bees were sent to the South Island before its varroa mite status was known.

As of last night, MAF has inspected 21 apiaries, with a total of 225 hives checked. Of these, 109 hives were found positive on nine properties. The Ministry today tripled its number of field teams. There are now approximately 40 staff inspecting the South Auckland controlled area. The team’s priority is to work further out from the control area centre to establish a varroa-free area.

All beekeepers in New Zealand are being asked again to inspect their beehives. MAF has received numerous calls from beekeepers on its Exotic Disease Hotline (0800 809 966).Calls from within the controlled area indicating significant risk are followed up with an inspection. Field teams are not operating outside the controlled area, at this point.

At this point, beekeepers outside of the control area have been asked to send bee samples to the National Plant Pests Reference Laboratory (NPPRL) at Lincoln, for checking. This is providing MAF with invaluable information to enable a through assessment of the national distribution of the vaaroa mite.

Means of diagnosis

Apistan strips will be used from tomorrow, after a successful trial was completed today. These polymer strips deliver a sustained dose of acaricide (or miticide), and are generally reckoned to be the most effective and sensitive diagnosis approach. The mites are killed, but leave the hives intact.

Apistan (tau fluvalinate) is registered in over 50 countries and is the leader in this field. Misuse of agricultural preparations of fluvalinate has led to some fluvalinate resistance, first in Europe and latterly in the United States, but this took about 10 years of sustained abuse by beekeepers to achieve.

MAF has obtained special approval to import Apistan into New Zealand for surveillance and diagnostic work. It will not be available for sale, and can only be used under MAF control.

A rundown to date:

Identification of Infected Properties:

Tuesday: 4 small hobby apiaries identified with Varroa infestation. All four in close proximity of each other.

Wednesday: One commercial apiary (with approximately 90 hives at two locations) within the control area was identified as infected. This apiary trades bees throughout New Zealand and overseas. Urgent tracing of bee movements from this property initiated on Wednesday led to restricted place notices being served on the apiary in Otago, which received bees from this property. Three smaller apiaries were also confirmed. All these properties are within a 10-kilometre radius.

A commercial Opotiki apiary reported signs of Varroa infestation. Verroa presence has yet to be confirmed. Bees from the same apiary were recently exported to Canada. MAF’s International Animal Trade section is actively following this up with the Canadian authorities.

The controlled area

MAF is establishing a controlled area under the Biosecurity Act 1993, in order to impose movement controls on things that could cause the spread of the mite.

The things that MAF is controlling the movement of are:

  • Honey bees (meaning Apis mellifera), including package bees, queen bees, and the whole or any part of any dead honey bee.
  • Beehives (meaning any thing that is being or has been used for the keeping of honey bees), including nucleus beehives.
  • Any part of any beehive, including frames, boxes, lids and bases, and supers of honey.
  • Used beekeeping equipment (meaning any thing that is being or has been used in connection with beekeeping).

There are two levels of control that will apply.

The highest level of control applies to Rodney District, North Shore City, Waitakere City, Auckland City, Manukau City, Papakura District, Franklin District, Waikato District, Hamilton City, and Hauraki District. The controlled items may not be moved into, within, or from these areas without the permission of an officer under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

The lower level of control applies to the rest of the North Island, and any other parts of New Zealand other than the South Island. The controlled items may not be moved from these areas to the South Island without the permission of an officer under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Any person who wishes to obtain permission to move one of the controlled items should phone (09) 265-9395.

The controlled area will remain in force until the survey has determined the mite’s distribution. There will be further controls on movements of these items from the North to South Islands.

What beekeepers should look for on hives

  • Infested hives may show the following signs:
  • Unexpectedly low bee numbers
  • A patchy pattern on brood frames as would be seen with a heavy sacbrood infestation
  • Small reddish-brown mites on the bodies of bees, and on uncapped drone pupae
  • Weak crawling bees, possible with deformed wings
  • Sudden hive crashes.

For any concerns telephone the MAF Exotic Disease Hotline at 0800 809 966

Information on the Varroa mite can be accessed off the MAF webiste homepage at


Matthew Stone, Programme Co-ordinator Exotic Disease Response, MAF Biosecurity Authority. Ph 025-332-509
Lin McKenzie, National Beekeepers Association Executive Member. 025-357-970
ita Parsot, Communications Adviser, MAF.

Contact MPI

for general enquiries phone

0800 00 83 33