NZ bee­keep­ers wor­ried about fungi fall­out


Bee­keep­ers are ner­vous about the threat of myr­tle rust to New Zealand’s manuka honey in­dus­try. How­ever, they hope to get a lucky break with the deadly fungi, just like their Aussie neigh­bours.

The Aus­tralian honey in­dus­try sur­vived a myr­tle rust out­break when it ar­rived on Aus­tralian shores in 2010.

Bee­keep­ers here are also hop­ing New Zealand’s mul­timil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try will sur­vive un­scathed, but ad­mit it could go ei­ther way.

Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries myr­tle rust re­sponse in­ci­dent con­troller David Yard said it was un­known how myr­tle rust would af­fect manuka in New Zealand.

‘‘We do not know at the cur­rent time how its pres­ence in NZ will im­pact manuka and, cor­re­spond­ingly, the honey in­dus­try. In Aus­tralia, where myr­tle rust is wide­spread, the fun­gus has been found to be­have dif­fer­ently on dif­fer­ent species and even in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions.’’

Api­cul­ture NZ (ApiNZ) Waikato vice pres­i­dent and Coro­man­del bee­keeper John Bas­sett said a myr­tle rust out­break is a con­cern.

‘‘If I was one of th­ese bee­keep­ers that in the last cou­ple of years has been plant­ing thou­sands of acres of manuka in a plan­ta­tion, then I’d be a bit wor­ried at the mo­ment,’’ he said.

‘‘We don’t know what it’ll do, but the in­di­ca­tions are from my mates in Aus­tralia that from a bee­keep­ing per­spec­tive, par­tic­u­larly with manuka, it may not be as se­ri­ous as peo­ple think it might be.’’

In Aus­tralia, an ac­tive manuka honey called jelly­bush is pro­duced from a tea-tree plant that is closely re­lated to NZ manuka.

Myr­tle rust hadn’t al­tered the jelly­bush honey yield since the fungi ap­peared in Aus­tralia, Bas­sett said.

‘‘With seven years’ ex­pe­ri­ence of that not ac­tu­ally mak­ing their in­dus­try crash, it would be re­al­is­tic to as­sume it’s not go­ing to de­stroy ours.’’

Bas­sett be­lieved there were big­ger con­cerns for the NZ manuka honey in­dus­try, such as the var­roa mite and MPI test­ing reg­u­la­tions.

ApiNZ chief ex­ec­u­tive Karin Kos said the ex­act be­hav­iour of myr­tle rust in NZ con­di­tions and what im­pact it would have on manuka here is un­known.

‘‘While it is of con­cern to our in­dus­try, we re­ally do not know enough about the im­pact yet.’’


Bee­keeper John Bas­sett says the myr­tle rust out­break is a con­cern.

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