Whanganui beekeepers are being warned to check their hives for a deadly and highly contagious disease.

Beekeeper Neil Farrer says American foulbrood disease (AFB) is rife throughout Whanganui, and the rural area within 10km of town, and hive owners need to know how to spot it before it spreads.

Farrer is hoping to help hobbyists and career beekeepers do just that through a two-hour workshop, run in conjunction with Wanganui Beekeepers' Club.

Farrer says beekeepers who find AFB in a hive are required to notify New Zealand's AFB management agency.

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The agency then tells any beekeeper with hives within 3km, either by email or text.

Now's the time to check beehives for American foulbrood and other bee health problems. Photo file / Bevan Conley
Now's the time to check beehives for American foulbrood and other bee health problems. Photo file / Bevan Conley

Beekeepers with infected hives are expected to burn every part of them, including the bees and the honey. That can be a painful process, Farrer said, and there's no compensation.

"I want beekeepers to be able to recognise the early signs and take appropriate action there and then, rather than putting it aside and forgetting about it, because that puts every beekeeper within 3km at risk," Farrer said.

The highly contagious disease can be spread when bees rob honey from an infected hive.
In winter hives that were placed in the backblocks so bees could collect mānuka nectar are brought closer to town. There are thousands close in around Whanganui, he said.

"All hives should be checked between now and September, not just for AFB but for a multitude of reasons. This is the time to remind people."

Farrer, who has given lessons about AFB before, said this year's session is at Mosston
School Hall on August 14. It starts at 7.30pm and costs $10.