Push for research cash to save our bees

By Carmen Hall

This situation is not getting taken seriously enough yet.Barry Foster, Beekeepers' Association president

The bee industry is facing major threats, the National Beekeepers' Association says.

President Barry Foster says viruses, pathogens, pesticides and a decline in nutritional sources are hitting the bee population, as well as the varroa mite.

"On one hand bees need good quality pollen to build up their fat reserves, and they also need it for their immune system. However, when you get a combination of factors like a degraded environment, pathogens and effects from pesticides you can get a serious situation."

The association plans to lobby the Government and other industry stakeholders to set up research programmes, he says.

"We don't need to reinvent the wheel, there has been a lot of research done overseas, but there are good possibilities if we had sufficient funds. We could collaborate a bit more and do some of our own in-house Kiwi stuff. People say it's just a bee problem but actually it's a food problem - our food."

A lack of knowledge, lack of political will and lack of money have prevented any action being taken, Foster says.

It's estimated there are more than 400,000 hives throughout the country, and the pollination of crops and clover is worth about $5 billion to the economy each year. Bees are a vital link in the food chain.

"If our bees are compromised to a great extent like other countries we haven't got any fall-back position. If we lose our bees we are buggered and this situation is not getting taken seriously enough yet."

Beekeepers' Association chief executive officer Daniel Paul says the Government has a critical role to play. "You know, we pollinate a lot of kiwifruit, a lot of apples and a lot of clover so it's not just the Government that needs to be thinking about this, it is other players. We are hoping to get everyone around a table and start talking co-operatively about how we can pool our resources."

Tauranga beekeeper Dennis Crowley says it's a constant battle against the varroa mite and finding sufficient food sources as the Bay of Plenty is agriculturally developed out. He welcomes research initiatives.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says he has not heard from the Beekeepers' Association, but he will carefully consider any proposal.

- Hamilton News

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