Leading beekeepers are trying fire power and an unofficial amnesty to try to stop the American foulbrood outbreak threatening orchards and other crops in Hawke's Bay.

A "Bring and Burn" day will be held at Arataki Honey on Saturday to not only destroy old beekeeping equipment, which may cause ongoing infection, but also to counter what some see as a lack of action from the top in helping get rid of the problem.

Following a major outbreak of the disease in the Waiohiki and Taradale area, the Hawke's Bay branch of the National Beekeepers Association wants all beekeepers who have old and possibly infected equipment, whether registered or not, to take it to the Bring and Burn day for destruction.

Branch spokesman John Berry, of Havelock North, said over 60 hives had already burned in Hawke's Bay this spring, and of 40 identified as infected recently, 36 had been in the Waiohiki and Taradale area. "It's pretty severe with apple pollination coming up within a few days."


With the hives needing to be destroyed and other beekeepers not keen to put hives into the area for fear of infection there were potential big ramifications for orchardist and the crop, he said.

New beekeepers often start out with old gear, he said, but the equipment could still be a risk, with foulbrood spores known to have survived more than 60 years.

"Experience has shown that a match is the only permanent solution to the problem."

Eradication of American foulbrood is part of the Pest Management Strategy under the Biosecurity Act, alongside bovine tuberculosis but receiving little in comparison by way of support or profile, Mr Berry said.

While MAF Bio-Security supports the industry, Mr Berry said rules aimed at protecting it were not being enforced to the degree of prosecution, which he said would make the point to dozens of amateur beekeepers with unregistered hives and breaching the conditions.

As an appointed inspector with powers to inspect people's hives and as a trainer teaching people recognition of the disease and infections, he said he'd encountered people who were "not fit and proper" people to keep beehives. "It wouldn't matter if it didn't affect other people, but unfortunately it does."


The beekeepers "Bring and Burn Day" to destroy old hives and equipment will be held at Arataki Honey, Havelock North, on Saturday, from 9am. Contact John Berry, ph (06) 8776205 (evenings) or email jrberry@ihug.co.nz