Thanks to a history of good beekeeping practice and strict biosecurity legislation, New Zealand enjoys a healthy bee population. However, honey bees in New Zealand do face threats from diseases and pests within the country and potentially from those overseas.
One of ApiNZ’s strategic goals is protecting the health of bees and ensuring we have strong biosecurity plans in place, as well as continuing to support good industry practice.

Biosecurity & Bees

Biosecurity surveillance is vital to the wellbeing of our bees by helping to detect pests and diseases before they can become established in New Zealand. Early detection protects the economy, the environment, and people from impacts associated with the introduction of pests and diseases.

Some surveillance programmes also support New Zealand’s status as free from specific pests and diseases.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) biosecurity surveillance activities are extensive with a budget of several million dollars per year. These activities stretch across the country, collecting or trapping many thousands of samples annually. For more information visit MPI’s website.

Learn more about ApiNZ’s Biosecurity & GIA focus group here.

Managed Pests & Diseases

American Foulbrood is a bacterial disease infecting the brood of the honey bee. The disease is present in almost all countries where honey bees are found.

It was first recorded in New Zealand in 1877, 38 years after honey bees were introduced. Within 10 years, the disease had spread to all parts of New Zealand and at the time was blamed for a 70% reduction in the nation’s honey production.

There is no legal or effective treatment for American Foulbrood Disease in New Zealand. Destruction is the only option, as the disease is extremely infectious, and the spores are very hard to kill. The AFB PMP National Management Agency is tasked with the elimination of AFB from New Zealand.

To find out more go to

Apiculture New Zealand sells the book Elimination of American Foulbrood Disease without the use of Drugs by Dr Mark Goodwin. You can order it here.

Parasitic Varroa mites (Varroa destructor) first arrived in New Zealand in 2000 and can now be found in both the North and the South islands of New Zealand.

The mature female Varroa mite is 1.6mm and reddish brown. She sucks tissue from developing and adult bees, weakening and eventually killing all hives that are not treated with suitable miticide treatments.

ApiNZ’s Science and Research Focus Group is involved in seeking long, sustainable controls of varroa in NZ.

Control of Varroa by Michelle Taylor and Mark Goodwin is a guide for New Zealand beekeepers on how to control Varroa in your hives. An updated edition was released in August 2021. Order it here.

Wasps invade honey bee hives to rob their honey and kill them. They have also been known to attack foraging bees.

According to Landcare Research, wasps destroy or seriously damage 8 to 9% of honey bee hives in New Zealand.

ApiNZ is making some small and important contributions to an on-going wasp bio-control project through Landcare Research in Lincoln.

The giant willow aphid (Tuberolachnus salignus) was first found in Auckland in December 2013. After feeding on its host (mostly willow trees) the aphid excretes excess water and sugar, known as honeydew. Bees are attracted to the honeydew and will take it back to the hive. However, the honeydew contains a sugar called melezitose, which causes the honey to crystallise and become too hard for the bees to eat.

The honeydew also attracts wasps, which can attack and kill whole beehives.

ApiNZ’s Science & Research focus group has been working with SCION New Zealand and Plant & Food Research, along with other industry partners, to introduce a bio-control for the giant willow aphid.

Read more about the giant willow aphid here.

Risk Pests & Diseases NOT in New Zealand

The small hive beetle is a black-brown beetle that originated from sub-Saharan Africa. Since its arrival in Australia in 2002, it has had a major impact on honey bee colonies there.

Damage to colonies is mainly caused by the beetle larvae tunnelling through the comb while feeding and defecating, causing the honey to ferment and bees to abandon the hive.

You can learn more about the small hive beetle and its effect on honey bee colonies here.

European foulbrood (EFB) is a brood disease of honey bees caused by the bacterium Melissococcus plutonius. The disease is found in most parts of the world where honey bees are kept, however, it has so far, not been found in New Zealand.

EFB can be misdiagnosed as AFB. For instance, in advanced stages with EFB, larvae may die after the cell has been capped. The brood pattern may appear patchy and some cappings may be sunken or perforated as is the case of AFB. Larvae affected by both diseases also eventually dry down to form a scale.

For more information on EFB, click here.

Pesticide Use & Honey Bees

Click here for information on protecting honey bees from pesticides.