New Zealand Colony Loss Survey shows ongoing trend in overall honey bee colony loss

Source: Landcare Research

A report on the New Zealand Colony Loss Survey for 2018 has been released highlighting an increase in colony losses in most regions throughout New Zealand, with the Upper North Island having the highest colony loss rates.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has today published the report, revealing beekeepers have reported a higher hive loss rate than previous years in four out of the six broad areas of the country.

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research researchers conducted the annual online survey on behalf of the beekeeping industry and MPI. More than 3,600 registered beekeepers (47% of NZ beekeepers) participated in the survey, providing information about the health of their bees and relevant management practices.

This year’s results estimate the national-level overall loss rates for winter 2018 at 10.2%, up from 2016 (9.7%) and 2015 (8.4%), but statistically indistinguishable from 2017 (9.6%). However, further analysis demonstrates a positive time trend in winter losses at the national level.

The highest colony loss rates occurred in the Upper North Island (12.8%) and Middle South Island (11.4%), while the lowest were registered in the Lower North Island (8.1%).

Trend analysis reveals that overall loss rates have increased since 2016 in the Upper North Island and across the South Island, while decreasing in the Middle North Island and Lower North Island.

Average loss rates were significantly higher for non-commercial beekeepers than for semi-commercial and commercial beekeepers.

Leading causes of colony losses include queen problems (35.5%), suspected varroa and related complications (19.5%), suspected starvation (12.1%), and wasps (12.1%).

Most commonly, queen problems were attributed to drone-laying queens and queen failure – but both of these issues were more pronounced among older rather than younger queens.

The Lower South Island reported less formal monitoring of varroa than other regions and the report showed that, among beekeepers who treat varroa, Amitraz and Flumetrin are the most common treatments by a wide margin.

The Colony Loss survey has been conducted annually since 2015 and the questionnaire is based on the international COLOSS survey, but has been adapted to include topics of specific interest to New Zealand beekeepers.

Full survey results:

Full report:


Māori reconnect with their roots through a new raranga education programme with the help of the The National NZ Flax Collection / Te Pā Harakeke ō Aotearoa

Source: Landcare Research

A new programme involving the National NZ Flax Collection is taking place at a Christchurch school as a way of reconnecting raranga (the art of weaving) with young Māori, their whānau and their community.

For centuries Māori have used raranga as a traditional art form to create kete (baskets), kākahu (clothes) and other useful items.

Raranga symbolises the very essence of Māori values by evoking strong feelings of unity and togetherness, but its knowledge and techniques aren’t being passed down through generations as they used to be.

Haeata Community Campus wants to change that and has incorporated a new NCEA-accredited kaupapa raranga (weaving programme) into their curriculum as an option for ākonga (students) who want to embrace the tradition.

“Raranga is a journey of self-discovery, self-determination, self-efficacy, resilience, well-being and so much more. It links to many other kaupapa also, for example, te reo, tikanga, whakapapa, marae, waka, history, biology, visual and wearable arts, kapahaka, horticulture, and many more,” says Haeata teacher and programme leader Melody Haira.  

A group of 13 young ākonga have chosen to be a part of the kaupapa. Over the course of five weeks the ākonga will learn how to harvest, manaaki (care for) and tiaki (protect) a pā harakeke. They will also learn about rongoā (medicinal) uses and their traditional application.

Although the programme is taking place within the campus, the learning extends much further than the classroom to help keep raranga and the kōrero of this tradition alive.

“Whānau engagement will ensure the longevity of this art within their whānau, and raranga helps weave people closer and allows tuakana–teina (older and younger sister) relationships to flourish, so it gives whānau the opportunity to learn alongside their children and siblings to offer support,” says Haira.


BEST Symposium

Source: Landcare Research

Date 1 May 2019
Venue National Library, Corner Molesworth and Aitken Street, Wellington
View on Google maps
  Space is limited to 80 people so please register early to ensure that you get a seat.

The management of New Zealand’s natural resources continues to be an important issue with diverse experiences and emergent challenges for agencies and communities across the country. Over the last 6 years, the Building Biodiversity into an ecosystem service-based approach for resource management (BEST) programme has been a part of this journey.

The BEST programme is holding an interactive public symposium outlining some of our key research findings and their applications. Most importantly the symposium will provide an opportunity to interact with others, share your experiences and explore how the research could be used in contexts important for you….and of course….what is still missing!

Topics for discussion will include:

  • The ‘great, the good, and the bad’ of incorporating biodiversity and ecosystem service in decisions
  • The relationship between landcover/land use and supply of ecosystem services
  • Māori biodiversity monitoring frameworks
  • Biodiversity and farm planning at different scales


Predator-Free Taranaki

Source: Landcare Research

Scientists from Manaaki Whenua’s Wildlife Ecology and Management Team are collaborating with the Taranaki Regional Council, Department of Conservation, and Taranaki Mounga Project on a research project to investigate how invasive mustelids (i.e., ferrets, stoats, and weasels) move around the landscape.

The project is part of ‘Towards Predator Free Taranaki’ which is New Zealand’s largest rural predator removal scheme. It is a rural operation covering around 700,000 hectares between New Plymouth and Egmont National park and involves the help of hundreds of rural residents who are keen on trapping mustelids to protect native wildlife. This video about the scheme was produced by Taranaki Regional Council:

Recently, Pablo Garcia-Diaz, Chris Niebuhr, and Oscar Pollard travelled to Taranaki to capture and collar mustelids. Their main objective is to understand whether mustelids living in the vast ring-plains of Taranaki can move into Egmont National Park, where the Taranaki Mounga environmental restoration programme is taking place.

Researchers collaborated with landowners and were able to catch and collar four stoats in farmlands surrounding Egmont National Park. The images below taken by Chris and Pablo show the trapping, collaring (by Chris) and release of a stoat.

Telemetry methods allow the researchers to track the position of the collared stoats and then use the data to show how the animals use the landscape. The field data will be combined with computer models to assess the chances that stoats inhabiting the ring-plains of Taranaki will move on and settle within the boundaries of Egmont National Park. The researchers are also interested in whether the opposite occurs and the mustelids move out of the National Park and onto the ring-plain.

Towards Predator-Free Taranaki is supported by $11.7 million from the Government’s Predator-Free 2050 Ltd. It is being delivered around Mt Taranaki in different stages and involves residents, community groups, Department of Conservation, Taranaki Mounga Project, Manaaki Whenua, schools, iwi and the three district councils in the region.


Embedding mātauraunga Māori into the deep south – a new Māori whakairo to be carved in Antarctica

Source: Landcare Research

Antarctica will shortly receive one of the first traditional Māori carvings to have been carved and completed on the ice. A pair of Māori carvers headed south to Antarctica on Waitangi Day to spend two weeks completing and installing the two whakawae (door frames) and a pare (lintel) that they are carving for Scott Base.

The project, led by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research ecologist Priscilla Wehi, is a component of the five-year Ross Sea Marine Protected Area monitoring programme (Ross-RAMP).  Ross-RAMP includes a mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) perspective on scientific research being conducted in the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area, one of the world’s largest protected sea zones.

“To celebrate this step towards ecosystem protection, we explored ideas around Māori concepts of kaitiakitanga and protection in Antarctica through whakairo (traditional Māori carving) – a medium used by indigenous peoples, including Māori, for many years,” says Wehi.

“In the mātauranga programme, we observe what’s happening with two eyes – one eye using the strength of indigenous knowledge and world views, and the other eye with the acute sight of scientific research. The challenge is for us to use both ways of seeing to overcome the critical environmental challenges we face,” she says.

Before written language, toi whakairo (the art of traditional Māori carving) was a form of communication used by Māori to record and transfer knowledge and history through generations.

“We are using whakairo to have a conversation in and about the wellness of Antarctica,” says kaumatua Te Warihi Hetaraka.

“The well-being of Papatuanuku (mother earth) starts with Antarctica. It’s an indicator, a litmus test for the rest of the world,” he says.

A pou (carved post) was erected in 2013 at Scott Base, but this is one of the first examples of traditional Māori carving taking place on the continent.

The new whakairo will be unveiled before the carvers return to New Zealand.

The project is funded by Antarctica New Zealand Community Engagement Programme, with support from the Ngāi Tahu Fund and Ngāti Wai.

Ross-RAMP is funded by NIWA and Manaaki Whenua.

Story: Suzette Howe
Images: Supplied


Digging into the roots of New Zealand’s golden opportunity

Source: Landcare Research

Scientists and Māori agribusiness have teamed up to learn about mānuka DNA variation, beehive stocking rates, and honey bee food resources.

As the mānuka gold rush continues to soar, so does New Zealand’s honey bee population.

There are now more than 875,000 registered beehives across the country, twice as many as 15 years ago.

But coinciding with the industry boom, are questions about honey bees’ food resources, mānuka variation, and how to reduce hive losses.

With the majority of New Zealand’s natural mānuka populations growing on Māori-owned land, Māori agribusiness has teamed up with Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research scientists, Plant and Food Research, and the University of Waikato, in a 5-year project that sets out to answer these questions and best maximise this opportunity.

“We commonly refer to it as the Honey Landscape, and really it’s about trying to understand how many hives we can have out on the landscape,” says Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research scientist, Dr Gary Houliston.

The Honey Landscape aims to create a comprehensive model of New Zealand’s native honey landscape, blending science and tikanga Māori to help Māori landowners increase honey production while still sustainably managing the native mānuka and plant species.

“We want a tool that a landowner can use to assess their property for how many hives they can actually place there. They would take our tool, consider what is on the land, look at what sort of vegetation they have, and assess how many hives they’ve got or can actually run on the land without experiencing the loss they are having,” says Dr Houliston.

The project starts by digging deeper into the roots of native mānuka growing on Māori land.

Researchers are working with Māori landowners to collect leaf samples from natural mānuka stands, extract the DNA, and see how mānuka varies in genetic makeup across a landscape and region.

“A lot of research has been done on the honey. Not a lot of research has been done on the actual resource itself,” says Ngati Porou’s Victor Goldsmith.

The sudden increase in international mānuka honey prices in the last decade has encouraged large commercial entities to jump in on the gold rush, but at a rate that food resources and honey bees can’t sustain.

While there are stocking rates for beef and sheep farming, there are none for beekeeping.

Without a stocking rate model, hundreds of hives can be placed on neighbouring properties, which results in bees being overcrowded, causing disease to spread faster and ultimately kill more honey bees – something researchers hope to change.

“We lose about 10 per cent of the hives each year, and this is partially due to overstocking – the bees basically don’t have enough food and don’t produce any honey or they consume all the honey in the hive,” says Dr Houliston.

“But if you understand what that stocking rate can be, we can possibly maximise the return from the number of hives and the amount of honey you are getting out of each hive,” he says.

With the competition in the New Zealand mānuka honey industry now the highest it’s ever been, a deeper understanding of the mānuka variation in each region is something Māori industry groups hope to use to help market their unique product.

“While we have a really good story that can sit behind our province story that we would be able to tell people overseas, especially if they are buying some of our mānuka honey products, I need to be able to back that up with some western science,” says Goldsmith.

“If we have the DNA work done, the DNA is DNA, so you can’t argue with that. At the moment, it looks as if some of those mānuka strains are different from others, which is really exciting.’

Over the project, researchers will also collect and test samples from other common honey bee nectar and pollen resources, to have a deeper understanding of what’s being collected across an entire piece of land.

Story: Suzette Howe
Images: Brad White


Graham Sevicke-Jones to join our Senior Leadership team

Source: Landcare Research

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Graham Sevicke-Jones to join our Senior Leadership team

© This image by Landcare Research is published under the CC-BY 4.0 international licence unless otherwise specified.”/>Graham Sevicke-Jones

New Senior Leader at Manaaki Whenua
We are delighted to announce that Graham Sevicke-Jones will be joining the Senior Leadership Team at Manaaki Whenua ­– Landcare Research in the role of General Manager Science & Knowledge Translation. Graham will start his new role on 25th March, and will be based in our Wellington office. He fills the vacancy left by Justine Daw’s move to GNS Science.
Graham will bring his extensive experience of applying science to real-world challenges faced by communities, businesses and government agencies seeking the sustainable use and development of our natural assets in New Zealand. He has deep experience of this from working at Canterbury, Hawkes Bay and Greater Wellington Regional Councils and currently Southland Regional Council, where he is Director Science and Information.
Alongside Dr Pete Millard, General Manager Science, Graham will be responsible for our research and science portfolios, but with a particular focus on the needs and opportunities for knowledge translation. He joins at a time when the translation of knowledge from science is increasingly demanded and the technologies for this are increasingly available. For us, knowledge translation is not merely the one-way communication of science; it is a two-way process of ensuring stakeholders’ perspectives and needs are understood and our science plays its role fully.
Graham’s experience in working with communities and understanding the people side of decision-making is also going to be very valuable as Manaaki Whenua continues to emphasize the integration of social and cultural, economic and environmental dimensions.  Graham says, “I am especially interested in providing the information base to enable community values and aspirations to be realised whilst providing for a resilient and healthy environment.” He recognises the roles of behaviour change, systems thinking, collaborative processes and Mātauranga Māori knowledge systems.