Auckland bee hives under threat
Auckland residents are questioning the sudden death of several backyard bee colonies in the region.
Around 200,000 bees, from hives in Howick and Botany, have met an untimely death that is surrounded by suspicion and unexplained circumstances.
John and Sarah Champion, of Mellons Bay, have kept bees for nearly five years but recently noticed something was wrong with their two hives.
‘‘Last week we noticed the bees were crawling around on the ground,’’ John said.
‘‘We assumed they were old ones which had gone out to die, but in the following days we noticed that nothing was happening in the hive, so we phoned our beekeeper and said we had a problem.’’
Claire Naylor was having a similar problem at her Botany property.
Registered beekeeper Ibrahim Mohammed was called to both properties and was shocked at what he found.
‘‘It’s basically like everything was working fine and then all of a sudden something happened and there was no activity at all.’’
Mohammed believes the sudden deaths could possibly be attributed to council-contracted spraying of noxious weeds.
The Auckland Council’s head of H&S quality assurance and environment, Mike Tucker, says its contractors spot-apply herbicides as a form of pest plant control in Auckland
‘‘The herbicides used for work in this area are all approved by the Environmental Protection Authority [EPA] and are not recognised as being toxic to bees,’’ he said.
The contractor working within South-East Auckland is Downer and the EPA-approved herbicide its uses is glyphosate, he said.
Peter Alexander, chief executive of beehive management service BeezThingz, said he has received at least 10 reports of bees dying in Auckland this season.
He said glyphosate alone isn’t the problem, but suspects a lethal combination of herbicide, pesticide and fungicide could be to blame.
‘‘If glyphosate is sprayed on its own, on to something that isn’t flowering, then it makes no difference to the bees.
‘‘But if you spray an insecticide mixed into the glyphosate, and onto plants that are flowering, then you will kill the bees.’’
Ibrahim Mohammed is a registered beekeeper and was first to inspect the poisoned hives.