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.