Research shows bees may be spreading myrtle rust

 

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has put immediate restrictions on all beehive movements on Public Conservation Land (PCL) in a bid to contain the spread of the fungal disease myrtle rust.

The decision comes after research from Plant and Food indicates bees may be a vector for the spread of myrtle rust, which can damage and kill some plants in the myrtle family.

DOC's Director for Permissions, Planning and Land, Marie Long, said DOC is concerned about the potential for honeybees to spread myrtle rust to unaffected areas of conservation land, so has restricted the movement of beehives.

"Myrtle rust is a threat to plants such as mānuka, kānuka, rātā and pōhutukawa. These plants are vital for healthy ecosystems, but also the beekeeping industry," she said.

Beehive concessionaires have been informed that: 

  • Beehives cannot be moved from the North Island and placed on PCL sites in the South Island.
  • Beehives cannot be moved from the Operational Districts of New Plymouth, King Country, Waikato, Hauraki, Tauranga and Auckland and placed on PCL sites in the Operational Region of Northern North Island.
  • Beehives cannot be moved from the Operational Districts of Golden Bay, Motueka, Sounds and Marlborough South and placed on PCL sites in other Operational Districts in the North Island or South Island.
  • Beehives cannot be moved from outside the Te Paki Ecological District and placed on PCL sites in the Te Paki Ecological District.

DOC is also advocating for more research into myrtle rust and bees to increase the knowledge around the role honeybees play in transferring the fungal disease.

"DOC is responsible for the protection of New Zealand's unique environment, so we have a duty to respond to an issue that could significantly harm our native myrtle species," said Ms Long.

"We will be reviewing the beehive restrictions annually to measure their effectiveness in preventing the spread of myrtle rust," she said.

The decision was made by DOC after seeking information on beehive movement from beekeepers who have concessions to keep beehives on public conservation land.

Myrtle rust was discovered on Raoul Island in the Kermadec group of islands in April 2017. 

It was later confirmed on mainland New Zealand - at a Kerikeri plant nursery on 3 May and at Waitara, Taranaki, on 17 May 2017. 

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