bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Kiwi beekeepers in a lather over semen

Varroa has certainly split New Zealand beekeepers. Just last week, I wrote about the arguments over how to delay the spread of varroa to South Island.

Now a new row has broken out after David Yanke of Northland says he has gained approval to import semen of carniolan bees from Germany. He wants to introduce hybrid vigour into the Italian-based Kiwi bee stock saying that no new stock has been imported into New Zealand for 50 years. He thinks that the new strain will have improved resistance to varroa.

The recently-formed New Zealand Bee Industry Group (BIG) is supporting the imports, but the longer standing National Beekeepers' Association of New Zealand objects saying that the new strain is likely to lead to an increase in swarming.

I think some British beekeepers would have something to say about that! There has long been a suspicion that mixing stocks in Britain — especially those involving Italian bees — often leads to increased bee defensiveness in subsequent generations.

I bet there are some interesting politics going on in the land of the long white cloud. The newly-formed BIG is a new industry sector of the Federated Farmers' Group. Mr Yanke, the would-be semen importer, happens to be an American who moved to New Zealand 23 years ago and has been trying to import semen for ten years. I suspect this story has some way to run.

In case you think artificial insemination of honeybees is a little far-fetched, here's a quick guide on how to collect the semen from drones and inseminate the queen. If you are sqeamish, don't go there!



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