Hives destroyed to stop disease

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    Southland commercial beekeeper Geoff Scott demonstrates what to do with an American Foulbrood-infected bee hive – burn it. Photo: Laura Smith

    IT starts with sickness and ends in flames.

    The sound of sizzling honey is one of the only remaining signs a beehive ever existed, after it is doomed to burn when contaminated by American Foulbrood (AFB).

    It is a sound which commercial beekeeper Geoff Scott believes is becoming more common in Southland – and the trouble is, it’s so difficult to stop.

    He said ignorance was a major contributor to the spreading of the destructive apine [bee] disease.

    “And we’re doing it – it’s us beekeepers doing it.”

    He said in his seven seasons as a beekeeper he had never seen the disease in Southland before.

    The Southland Bee Society, he said, encountered AFB at a Limehills location in January.

    “Since then, I know of 11 locations, it’s a cobweb effect.”

    AFB can be devastating, he said, both financially and emotionally – it would take about two and a half years to see a return in profit from starting a hive from scratch.

    American Foulbrood is one of several pests which cause issues in the apiculture industry, with 2936 reported cases over the past year nationally.

    In Southland, there were 87, and while the national numbers have remained constant, American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan national compliance manager Clifton King said there had been an increase in Southland.

    “We’re currently investigating to see what might be causing that… we don’t currently have a clear answer at the moment.”

    With 14,481 registered hives in Southland, he said it was beekeepers and beekeeper practices which were responsible for controlling the disease from spreading, and said it was important for people to know how to recognise AFB and respond accordingly.

    Although there were a number of reasons why it could be spreading, one possible impacting reason could be unregistered beekeepers and hives which may not be monitored.

    Another, was hobbyist beekeepers not knowing how to identify the disease, and therefore unwittingly furthering the issue to other hives, he said.

    In an attempt to combat the spread, the Southland Bee Society will host a meeting on Wednesday and encourages people to attend to learn about the disease, including how identify and deal with it.

    Mr Scott said they would be offering to check hives for free – “because that will benefit all of us”.

    The meeting will be held at 6.30pm at the 2nd NZEF, 177 Don St.

    Additionally, Mr King said an Invercargill AFB recognition course would be held on Sunday, September 8, and people could learn more through its website, afb.org.nz

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