Beehive frames infected with the devastating American Foulbrood disease dumped at a Northland transfer station has put nearby hives at risk and angered those in the industry.

It's believed the 40 diseased frames, that were stuffed inside Ballance fertiliser bags, were dumped late on Wednesday at the Kokopu Transfer Station, west of Whangārei.

As a result those who own hives within a 2 kilometre radius of the transfer station are being warned to check their hives carefully for the next six months for signs of the disease.

On Saturday morning when staff returned they were unable to work as the frames had attracted a large number of bees to the site.

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Fertiliser bags found at the Kokopu transfer station with beehive frames infected with American Foulbrood disease. Photo / Supplied
Fertiliser bags found at the Kokopu transfer station with beehive frames infected with American Foulbrood disease. Photo / Supplied

Beekeeper Trevor Clifton was called in to deal with the thousands of bees that had massed and with the frames, that he identified had American Foulbrood (AFB) disease.

"I went through and looked at every frame and I found the disease. I knew I had to destroy them," Clifton said.

"The disease is a major problem for us beekeepers. For someone to do this is bloody disgusting and annoying."

The only way to get rid of the disease is by burning the entire hive including the frames and burying the remaining ashes.

Clifton, who qualified 12 years ago to detect the disease, said he got the permission of a neighbouring farmer and put the seven bags over the fence and burned the lot on Sunday morning.

"That's the other thing, is there were no boxes. So it seems they have kept them and they will still have AFB on their site."

He said there were no identifiable features on the frames and he was unable to determine if they had come from a commercial beekeeper or a hobbyist.

Clifton also alerted the Management Agency for American Foulbrood National Pest Management Plan.

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Beekeeper Trevor Clifton , with his clean hives, was called to help with frames dumped at a Northland transfer station he identified had American Foulbrood disease and were destroyed.Photo/ John Stone
Beekeeper Trevor Clifton , with his clean hives, was called to help with frames dumped at a Northland transfer station he identified had American Foulbrood disease and were destroyed.Photo/ John Stone

AFB is a fatal bacterial disease of honey bee brood caused by spore forming bacteria. Adult bees are not affected by AFB but they can spread spores within and between infected and clean hives when bees rob honey from an infected hive.

Clifton King, national compliance manager for The Management Agency, American Foulbrood National Pest Management Plan said legally AFB colonies should be reported to the agency and be killed and burnt within seven days of being found.

He said it was important the contents of hives were destroyed as soon as possible as they were a significant source of cross-infection.

King said notices were being delivered to hive owners within a 2km radius of where the infected frames were discovered.

"It's important they inspect their hives regularly for the next six months. If not found early enough there is a risk that it could spread."

He said the agency could not take any action as the owner of the frames and associated hives could not be identified.

AFB is the most serious honey bee disease in New Zealand, the control of which is a major cost to beekeepers.

In 1996, the combined cost of the disease including beehive inspection, destruction of diseased beehives and loss of production was estimated at $2.9 million, or roughly 6 per cent of the annual gross returns of the New Zealand beekeeping industry at the time.

Unlike most other countries, New Zealand beekeepers do not use antibiotics to control AFB.