Bee Pathogen Programme

Bees are an important part of New Zealand's ecosystems and primary industries. Find out about the Bee Pathogen Programme, how it protects our apiculturists, and how we're getting ready to respond to potential biosecurity threats.

About the programme

The Bee Pathogen Programme is helping to secure our apiculture (beekeeping) sector and protect New Zealand’s increasing international trade in bee products.

Sampling for the Bee Pathogen Programme ran from September 2016 to March 2019. The 300 samples we collected contain over 130,000 honey bees which all need to be examined. Our experts are now working through this huge archive of material.

Once the data has been evaluated, it will be made available to the beekeeping industry and researchers. The data will be analysed further then.

Biosecurity New Zealand is aiming to release its conclusions from the programme in early 2020.

All about the Bee Pathogen Programme – infographic [PDF, 429 KB]

The Bee Pathogen Programme – Project Overview (New Zealand Beekeeper, March 2018) [PDF, 164 KB]

Rural Delivery – Bee Pathogen Programme


The programme aims to find out:

  • how common pests and pathogens are
  • how severely hives are affected by pests and pathogens
  • where pests and pathogens are located in New Zealand
  • how pests and pathogens are affecting our apiary industries, including how much honey hives are producing, and how many bees are being lost.

The sampling programme

Trained inspectors performed disease inspections on 60 apiaries from around New Zealand. Samples were taken twice a year from 8 hives at each apiary.

Inspectors looked for:

  • American foulbrood
  • European foulbrood
  • half-moon syndrome
  • sacbrood
  • chalkbrood
  • black shiny bees
  • deformed wing virus
  • signs of pests including wax moth, Varroa mites, ants, wasps, and small hive beetles.

They also collected bee samples, and recorded information such as how the hives were managed.

Bee samples were sent to both our Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) and our Plant Health and Environment Laboratory (PHEL) for analysis. The AHL checked bee samples for viruses including foulbroods and syndromes. The PHEL determined Varroa and Nosema counts for each hive.

Who was involved

The study involved Biosecurity New Zealand staff, authorised apiary inspectors, and apiary owners who had agreed to be part of the programme.

The owners of each apiary in the programme received their own hive report after each analysis. The report told them:

  • their apiary pathogen load results from both molecular and microscopic testing
  • the average load per bee for their apiary
  • how their apiary compared to the national average for each pathogen or pest
  • how each measurement changed over the research period.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about the information on this page, email

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