Bee Pathogen Programme

Bees are an important part of New Zealand's ecosystems and primary industries. Find out about the Bee Pathogen Programme, how it works to protect our apiculturists and how we're getting ready to respond to potential biosecurity threats.

Bees matter

Bees are not simply producers of honey. They pollinate all kinds of plants that affect our ecosystems.

Bees play a part in:

  • tree and crop farming
  • dairy farming
  • animal meat production
  • honey production
  • some forestry.

Without bees, our primary industries would suffer.

Preparing to respond

One of our country's best defenses is readiness – preparing for a biosecurity threat. Being ready can put us in a much better position to protect our primary industries should there be a problem.

The Bee Pathogen Programme will help secure our apiculture (beekeeping) sector and protect New Zealand’s increasing international trade in bee products.

About the programme

The Bee Pathogen Programme runs from September 2016 to March 2019.


The programme aims to find out:

  • how common pests and pathogens are
  • how severely hives are affected by pests and pathogens
  • where pests and pathogens are located in New Zealand
  • how pests and pathogens are affecting our apiary industries – including how much honey hives are producing and how many bees are being lost from colonies.

What we're doing

Trained inspectors will do disease inspections on a variety of apiaries from around New Zealand. They will be looking for:

  • American foulbrood
  • European foulbrood
  • half-moon syndrome
  • sacbrood
  • chalkbrood
  • black shiny bees
  • deformed wing virus
  • signs of pests – including wax moth, Varroa mites, ants, wasps and small hive beetles.

Inspectors will check 8 hives at each apiary. They will collect bee samples and record specific information for each – including how the hives are managed.

Bee samples will be sent to both our Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) and our Plant Health and Environment Laboratory (PHEL) for analysis. The AHL will check bee samples for viruses – including foulbroods and syndromes. The PHEL will use the sample bees to determine both Varroa and Nosema counts per bee for each hive.

In total, samples will be taken from 60 apiaries every spring and autumn until the end of 2018. Inspectors will use the same 60 apiaries for each round of inspections.

Who's involved

The study involves MPI staff, MPI-authorised apiary inspectors and certain apiary owners who have agreed to be part of the programme.

The owners of each apiary in the programme will receive their own hive report after each 6-month analysis. The report will tell them:

  • their apiary pathogen load results from both molecular and microscopic testing
  • the average load per bee for their apiary
  • how their apiary compares to the national average for each pathogen or pest
  • how each measurement is changing over the research period.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about the information on this page, email

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