Pollinator safety

Bees are extremely good pollinators of crops and contribute substantially to New Zealand’s multi-billion dollar agricultural economy.

Pollination is essential for plants to produce fruits and seeds and to assist with nitrogen regeneration in clover pastures.

New Zealand’s bee industry

There are around 600,000 registered beehives in New Zealand. Hive numbers peaked at 918,000 in 2019, but numbers have dropped in the past few years.

Challenges to bee health

More bee colonies are being lost due to varroa mites than any other cause, according to the annual New Zealand Colony Loss Survey. The latest bee surveillance report shows that varroa was the cause of over half of all winter losses.

Beekeepers must remain vigilant in detecting varroa and make sure miticides are used according to manufacturer instructions.

Queen problems and suspected starvation are also problematic. Losses attributed to wasps were down compared to previous years.

In total, 3,457 beekeepers completed the  Survey - a response rate of 42.6%  - including 19 of the 25 largest operators, indicating a response rate of 76% among this group.

Ensuring pest control products don’t harm bees

Sprayers – read the label

Before spraying, read the product label to see if it includes statements about bees. For example, the product should not be sprayed on crops in flower when bees are foraging.

Bee responsible awareness campaigns

A campaign for aerial and ground sprayers on keeping bees safe by using agrichemicals responsibly was launched by us with NZ Aviation in Agriculture and Rural Contractors.

Poster - protecting bees from unintended exposure to agrichemicals.

We also prepared simple rules for farmers and beekeepers to follow to ensure the coexistence of agriculture and bees, with Apiculture New Zealand:

Seed treatments

Seed treatments allow farmers to grow crops tailored to cope with disease, insects and weeds, thereby increasing productivity of their land. Seed treatments help manage diseases and insect pests from sowing until the crop is established, reducing the need for spraying.

With the New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association (NZGSTA) we produced best practice guides promoting the safe handling and management of treated seed, for the benefit of safety to people, insects, animals and the environment.

Best practice guide for seed treaters

The Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship helps seed treaters and seed companies to manage and handle treated seed according to regulations and best practice. It combines seed treatment research and safety information from universities, seed companies, international seed associations and others.

In addition to offering safety advice for people handling treated seed, the guide includes techniques for mitigating risks to pollinators, animals, and waterways, including measures to minimise dust and pesticide drift, and emphasises the importance of the correct use of planter technology.

Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship

Best practice guide for farmers

A seed treatment guide has been produced for farmers on handling and planting treated seeds, including the disposal of any surplus seed.

Stewardship guide: Handling and planting treated seed