Beekeepers advised to check vigilantly to control foulbrood

The best course of action for Southland beekeepers at risk of American foulbrood disease was to be vigilant with checks for the disease, a meeting of beekeepers was told in Invercargill this week.

The meeting was called to discuss ways of combating the destructive bee-killing disease after beekeepers in Southland were hit by a wave of it recently.

Spread mostly by beekeepers and their practices, American foulbrood disease is one of several pests that cause issues in the apiculture industry, and nationally there were 2936 reported cases over the past 12 months, including 87 in Southland.

It is a spore-forming bacteria that infects honey bee brood.

While New Zealand's national numbers remained constant, American foulbrood pest management plan national compliance manager Clifton King previously said there had been an increase in the region.

That prompted the meeting in Invercargill on Wednesday night.

Southland beekeeper Murray Christensen, of the Southland Bee Society, said the best course of action was to be vigilant with checks for the disease.

"It's not a time for panic, it's a time for cool heads ... If you don't know how to do a check I'd encourage you to learn," he said.

Clean tools and correct practice were also important.

There was no stigma attached to finding the disease in a beekeeper's hive because it could be easily transferred and while one person whose hives fell ill to the disease might be doing everything right, their neighbour up the road might not.

AP2 inspectors inspect beekeeper's hives for American foulbrood and exotic diseases, and inspector Rex Gibson said he had seen several bad habits in Southland he would like to see stopped.

Everyone had to work together to eradicate the disease and he asked for those who were known to have got it to not be ostracised.

It could be difficult for a beekeeper to watch their hives burn - whether they were hobbyist or commercial - but it would be necessary for ensuring the spread rate did not increase, he said.

"I know it's traumatic to destroy a hive, but if you don't, you will spread it."

Mr Christensen said the society would be organising a day where teams of three would inspect the hives of those who did not feel confident to do it themselves.

He said a refresher American foulbrood recognition course would be held next month and those who wanted to attend could contact him through the society.

Mr King said a full American foulbrood recognition course would be held in Invercargill on September 8.

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