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AFB PEST MANAGEMENT

Are we getting what we are paying for?

 

All New Zealand beekeepers have been forced pay significant amounts of money to the AFB Management Agency over the last 19 years to help them to eradication of AFB from New Zealand.   As we now have a higher number of hives with AFB than when the strategy started, even though disease levels had fallen each year for the 10 years before the strategy started, something has gone very wrong.

We seem to have forgotten that we set up the AFB Pest Management Agency to assist beekeepers to eradicate AFB from New Zealand, not for it to try to eradicate AFB for them. We currently seem to be trying to find and destroy AFB hives faster the beekeepers can create them.  This approach was tried unsuccessfully in New Zealand between 1960 and 1990 and range of other countries.   

It is important to recognise firstly that all hives are inspected for AFB by beekeepers each year.  Some beekeepers are obviously better at doing this than others.  Secondly, beekeepers are responsible for almost all AFB spread.    To eradicate AFB from New Zealand, all the strategy needed to do was to change beekeeper behaviour so the find and destroy AFB hives faster than they created new ones.  So how do we plan to change beekeeper behaviour.

When the AFB Pest Management strategy was written and voted on, the AFB Management Agency was given 4 tools to change beekeeper behaviour.  The Agency has, however, only used two of these.  Unfortunately, the tools that have not been used are the most powerful ones available to us, and interesting, the least expensive.   

The first tool available was trying to make beekeepers comply with the strategy rules.   The Agency has concentrated on this and has probably done all they could do with the funding they had.  The second tool was AFB disease recognition and destruction courses.  These have occurred and appear to have fulfilled the function they were designed for.

The third and fourth tools were designed to facilitate behaviour change. To get beekeepers better at finding AFB and reducing is spread.  The third was the AFB workshops described in the PMS which were for approved beekeepers to meet and discuss their AFB programmes and get advice.   These were mainly, but not exclusively, for commercial beekeepers.  There was supposed to have been one of these in ever branch area every year or a total of 250 since the start of the strategy.  These have not occurred.    If these had been continued with the large AFB outbreaks reported in the South Island and East cost of the north Island need not have occurred.

The fourth behavioural change tool was having a gaol that beekeepers can identify with and get enthusiastic about.    We have goal, which is to eradicate AFB from NZ.  What we need a creative way of put this it in front of beekeepers again. 

The way ahead is to instate the workshops that the beekeeping industry were told were going to occur then the voted on the strategy.  As for readdressing the goal, perhaps a way ahead would be for the Management Agency to actively encourage regional eradications as has been attempted in Hamilton and Otago/Southland.

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6 minutes ago, Dr Mark Goodwin said:

We currently seem to be trying to find and destroy AFB hives faster the beekeepers can create them.

Hi Mark
Can you just clarify this, I dont understand what you mean.

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6 minutes ago, Philbee said:

Hi Mark
Can you just clarify this, I dont understand what you mean.

Err, faster than the beeks can create them ?

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11 minutes ago, Philbee said:

Hi Mark
Can you just clarify this, I dont understand what you mean.

We, the agency, currently seem to be trying to find and destroy AFB hives faster than the beekeepers can create them.

 

one of the issues years ago is people left it up to the inspectors to find it and sort it. it doesn't work. not enough inspectors and to many hives.

best way is to turn beeks into inspectors.

23 minutes ago, Dr Mark Goodwin said:

The third was the AFB workshops described in the PMS which were for approved beekeepers to meet and discuss their AFB programmes and get advice.   These were mainly, but not exclusively, for commercial beekeepers.  There was supposed to have been one of these in ever branch area every year or a total of 250 since the start of the strategy.  These have not occurred. 

i wonder if we should be making that compulsory as part of the beeks pms agreement.

a lot of industry's these days have compulsory education as part of their licencing requirements. a few weeks doing a course every year or you don't get your license to practice.

one of the issues with various trades is "industry rot" due to people not upskilling as the industry moves on.

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9 minutes ago, tristan said:

We, the agency, currently seem to be trying to find and destroy AFB hives faster than the beekeepers can create them.

 

one of the issues years ago is people left it up to the inspectors to find it and sort it. it doesn't work. not enough inspectors and to many hives.

best way is to turn beeks into inspectors.

i wonder if we should be making that compulsory as part of the beeks pms agreement.

a lot of industry's these days have compulsory education as part of their licencing requirements. a few weeks doing a course every year or you don't get your license to practice.

one of the issues with various trades is "industry rot" due to people not upskilling as the industry moves on.

One way to avoid a pending spike in AFB is to spend 3-4 years budget over  the next 18 months managing down the Hive numbers.
If Hive numbers are left to sort themselves out then the AFB cost might be 10 years buget.

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After returning to beeking after a long long time,  ( and now being registered myself, rather than family ) , i went to the AFB training day. and passed the 'quiz'.   As an 'educational' experience, i was very dissapointed, but also deeply concerned that you could pass a recognition, by picture association rather than by actually learning to recognize AFB.    I'll be able to get a DECA in the next few months, and if the course was the sum total of what AFB 'training' was, i think i'd be a liablity. 



 

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Beegrade there was another similar complaint from your area some months ago. The people at the top do need feedback to know how things are working "on the ground". 

 

I would suggest writing your concerns in a logical manner and emailing them to training@afb.org.nz

 

Please do not hold out for anything to instantly change just because you sent an email, but i think it is important for people to send good and bad feedback so a "weight of evidence" can be built.

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6 minutes ago, Alastair said:

Beegrade there was another similar complaint from your area some months ago. The people at the top do need feedback to know how things are working "on the ground". 

 

I would suggest writing your concerns in a logical manner and emailing them to training@afb.org.nz

 

Please do not hold out for anything to instantly change just because you sent an email, but i think it is important for people to send good and bad feedback so a "weight of evidence" can be built.

I was taken back by Beegrade's opinion.
When I did my test there was a room full of applicants and I feel that the examiner did a good job with the time available.
More cost more and its debatable whether the AFB problem is a direct result of a lack of education.
 

I have and idea, just the seed of an idea really
The time is right to buy down Hive numbers 
the buy down would have conditions related to AFB audits and would be expensive for the country.
Alternatively we can just sleepwalk on 

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Won't happen.

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4 minutes ago, Alastair said:

Won't happen.

I agree 
sleepwalking is far more likely.
 

This week I committed to spending 50K at a Scientific Lab

Why, because I want something done and know that if you spend the money things get done.

If the OP cant instigate the spending nothing will get done unless draconian legislation is passed.
Interesting prospect.

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You have a way blown out idea of their budget.

Edited by Alastair

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2 hours ago, beegrade said:

After returning to beeking after a long long time,  ( and now being registered myself, rather than family ) , i went to the AFB training day. and passed the 'quiz'.   As an 'educational' experience, i was very dissapointed, but also deeply concerned that you could pass a recognition, by picture association rather than by actually learning to recognize AFB.    I'll be able to get a DECA in the next few months, and if the course was the sum total of what AFB 'training' was, i think i'd be a liablity. 



 

When I did my course I think it was run by a volunteer. I agree the course was light and very easy to pass. However, I had put in quite a bit of effort prior to the day. We did have a very old frame of AFB we were allowed to practise roping with and while not part of the pass/fail aspect of the day, I was glad of that opportunity. One thrust of the OP, was (I think) the idea that WE collectively put in more effort and don't look at the Agency to do everything for us. 

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20 minutes ago, ChrisM said:

One thrust of the OP, was (I think) the idea that WE collectively put in more effort and don't look at the Agency to do everything for us. 

Talk is cheap.

nothing will come of this sort of talk and thats a fact

24 minutes ago, Alastair said:

You have a way blown out idea of their budget.

Then they have a way blown out idea of their goals

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28 minutes ago, ChrisM said:

One thrust of the OP, was (I think) the idea that WE collectively put in more effort and don't look at the Agency to do everything for us. 

 

Exactly right Chris.

 

I do get annoyed with a lot of the moaning i hear about the AFBPMP. Beekeepers are legally required to sort their own stuff in relation to AFB, and if they all did, we would be virtually free of the disease in perhaps 3 years.

 

The AFBPMP is a beekeeper funded program essentially to deal with non compliant beekeepers, on the behalf of the majority of beekeepers who are compliant and are doing what they are supposed to be doing. But are subject to disease and expense because of the few who do not play ball.

 

There HAS to be a monitoring program because just one non compliant beekeeper can cause so much damage. But some folks have the idea that our AFB statistics are caused by poor management at the AFBPMP. Our poor statistics are caused by poor beekeepers.

 

I have said this before, but last years figures were that there were over 6,000 beekeepers, and just over 30 inspectors (who are very part time). You would think with those numbers and all those beekeepers checking their hives, that virtually all the AFB would have been found by the 6,000 beekeepers. But no. Fully a third of AFB that was found was found by the handful of inspectors. The inspectors are stretched very thin, so my personal assumption is that this very poor showing by the 6,000 beekeepers must mean that a whole lot of AFB did not get found at all. And in fact we know that, by the ongoing rate of infections.

 

That may seem harsh but it's the facts and i find it very discouraging. Should say though that it is not an indictment on all beekeepers because most of us are trying pretty hard. But some are not.

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6 minutes ago, Alastair said:

 

Exactly right Chris.

 

I do get annoyed with a lot of the moaning i hear about the AFBPMP. Beekeepers are legally required to sort their own stuff in relation to AFB, and if they all did, we would be virtually free of the disease in perhaps 3 years.

 

The AFBPMP is a beekeeper funded program essentially to deal with non compliant beekeepers, on the behalf of the majority of beekeepers who are compliant and are doing what they are supposed to be doing. But are subject to disease and expense because of the few who do not play ball.

 

There HAS to be a monitoring program because just one non compliant beekeeper can cause so much damage. But some folks have the idea that our AFB statistics are caused by poor management at the AFBPMP. Our poor statistics are caused by poor beekeepers.

 

I have said this before, but last years figures were that there were over 6,000 beekeepers, and just over 30 inspectors (who are very part time). You would think with those numbers and all those beekeepers checking their hives, that virtually all the AFB would have been found by the 6,000 beekeepers. But no. Fully a third of AFB that was found was found by the handful of inspectors. The inspectors are stretched very thin, so my personal assumption is that this very poor showing by the 6,000 beekeepers must mean that a whole lot of AFB did not get found at all. And in fact we know that, by the ongoing rate of infections.

 

That may seem harsh but it's the facts and i find it very discouraging. Should say though that it is not an indictment on all beekeepers because most of us are trying pretty hard. But some are not.

And the answer is?

The status Quo will see you posting this every two years for ever.
You may as well copy it to a jpeg file and save yourself the future typing

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The answer Phil is more money for the AFBPMP. But that's not going to happen because back when more money was asked for, the moaning, crying, and general uproar the request generated meant the extra money didn't happen. And this was when beekeepers were making good money.

 

So, what hope now? Probably none.

 

However the fact that the handful of AFBPMP inspectors found a full one third of all AFB that was found in the country, is not just a sterling effort on their behalf, it is an incredible, astounding, amazing effort by those few part timers.

 

I just find it hard to tolerate the endless critisism thrown at the program. It is unfounded and ignorant. That is not refering to the OP, he raises some very good points. I am referring to the other dribble that gets posted.

 

 

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9 minutes ago, Alastair said:

The answer Phil is more money for the AFBPMP. But that's not going to happen because back when more money was asked for, the moaning, crying, and general uproar the request generated meant the extra money didn't happen. And this was when beekeepers were making good money.

 

So, what hope now? Probably none.

 

However the fact that the handful of AFBPMP inspectors found a full one third of all AFB that was found in the country, is not just a sterling effort on their behalf, it is an incredible, astounding, amazing effort by those few part timers.

 

I just find it hard to tolerate the endless critisism thrown at the program. It is unfounded and ignorant. That is not refering to the OP, he raises some very good points. I am referring to the other dribble that gets posted.

 

 

Money, Money, Money, the public must pay and until the Minister can sort that nothing will improve.
Unless of course the coming global slow down is so severe that we reduce to 450000 Hives.
However that will mean the abandonment of so many Hives its frightening to think about. 
So either way, logic dictates that the problem will get significantly worse before it gets better

IMO

Edited by Philbee

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But like i said, it won't happen.

.

Let's explain a little further. We would all like to see less hives. But there are two obvious reasons why a "buy down" will not happen. They are logistical, and financial. 

 

Logistics, are that counting unreported hives, there are over a million hives in NZ. Let's say the govt bought 300,000 or 400,000 hives to reduce hive numbers to 700,000, or 600,000. What would happen to those 300,000 or 400,000 hives that the govt bought? They would not just be burned bees and all, that is far too wasteful and would be unpalatable. Where would the hives be put? Who would manage them? If a corporate manager was put in charge, you can bet they would not be managed as well as they were under their original owners.

In addition, bees reproduce rapidly and there are still beekeepers merrily making splits. Let's say hive numbers were "bought down" to 700,000. It would not take long for beekepers seeing empty places now available to put hives, to bring numbers straight back up to a million again.

 

Financial. We are not dairy farmers who have millions of taxpayer dollars paid to us when there is a problem. We are beekeepers and as such we traditionally get nothing. The money for a "buy down" will not happen.

 

If a reduction in hive numbers does happen, it will be by natural attrition and financial hardship. The powers that be know that, and have essentially been advised of that by our representatives.

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so the AFB strategy seems to not be working. I had the same thought when I read all those AFB case studies in the Journal...

 

the AFB elimination approach (has a similar endeavour ever worked out anywhere and anywhen in human history ?) relies that all beekeepers engage and work together.

 

Plenty of Beekeepers seem to continue to ignore every procedure related to AFB management (its a miracle they still manage to keep the mites at bay)

 

as long as those few Individuals (and most importantly the ones you do not know about) are not prosecuted properly and made to stop their damaging practices you can throw as much taxpayers money at the problem as you want.

 

also seems to be very common to just leave hives somewhere and not care about (and not even register) them even when the owners are found why are they not prosecuted?

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12 hours ago, beegrade said:

i went to the AFB training day. and passed the 'quiz'

I went recently to a refresher course.  I didn't have to resit the test.  I was rather surprised that there has not been any follow up from the AFBPMP with a customer survey.  In this instance attendees are the customer and a modern organisation should be seeking this feedback.  

 

I think the part time inspectors do an amazing job.  It is not easy work. But these inspections are not the only programme that AFB is picked up on.  There is quite a bit found on Exotic Surveillance Programmes, and I definitely know this for a fact because for many years I undertook this Surveillance.  

 

 

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1 hour ago, Christi An said:

(its a miracle they still manage to keep the mites at bay)

Dont speak too soon, this summer could see Mites get wildly out of control and as a good Beek commented recently, Spring starts in Feb so when the mites get away on us this Summer it will affect the next Spring build up and also the financial viability of the outfits who have done a good job of fighting the Mites to that date.

Having spent thousands of dollars on Mite control, the collapsing hives will simply reinfect the clean Hives by April/May.

 

24 minutes ago, Alastair said:

Over the last year we have seen enough incidents (only some reported), of AFB issues about to explode, that have been extinguished only by the actions of the AFBPMP. And the people who did not get AFB because of these actions are generally unaware.

Those 30 inspectors dont have a hope of holding back the AFB effects of a collapsing industry.

Its too late now as the Enemy is literally at the door 
IMO 

 

With regard Buy downs
These sort of deals would have conditions and would ideally be tied into Hive caps and Quotas
Not popular subjects I know.

 


 

What the Bean counters also need to factor in is the ongoing effects of AFB Swarms setting up camp in the wild.
One of the effects of abandoned or Idling Hives will be Swarms
This expands the AFB problem.

So for anyone just thinking that the problems will be solved by natural attrition, they may not be.

Edited by Philbee

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Wild hives were a major AFB issue pre varroa. Now, based on personal experience i believe they are overated as a source. They are a source, but a small one compared to kept hives.

 

The majority of swarms that establish in the wild are killed by varroa before they have time to develop major AFB. If they die with an AFB infection it will be early stage. Wax moths then move in.

 

Varroa mites did us a favour in that regard. Eliminated wild hives, and eliminated leave it alone beekeepers.

Edited by Alastair
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1 hour ago, Philbee said:

 

 

With regard Buy downs
These sort of deals would have conditions and would ideally be tied into Hive caps and Quotas
Not popular subjects I know.

 


 

 

 

 Your isolation gives a limited view unfortunately - up here, there was an utter scoundrel who spread AFB incredibly widely badly with managed rentals on ones and twos and numbering well in the hundreds, who refused to believe that just removing the frame with visual AFB. They spend years trying to eliminate that fellow, and the infected gear kept on turning up and being sold under a range of aliases. If there was a buy back, I think the same thing would happen - beek would be paid out, but would not burn all the gear. Think about the gear suppliers - they would suddenly have little or no market, as there would be used gear free for the taking, or else, someone would have to go out and euthanise thousands of hives, and burn the lot - I wouldn't want to do that, and I think it would cause an uproar in the media.

Edited by Sailabee
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18 hours ago, Dr Mark Goodwin said:

The way ahead is to instate the workshops that the beekeeping industry were told were going to occur then the voted on the strategy. 

Hi Mark - What is your idea of a workshop?

 

1 hour ago, Alastair said:

Wild hives were a major AFB issue pre varroa. Now, based on personal experience i believe they are overated as a source

 

Don't have time during smoko to find the original edition of the little yellow book, but I am fairly certain that we were told that swarms pre varroa were not a major AFB issue.  In the depths of my mind, I think I recall under a 10% chance of AFB, but I could be wrong on this.  

 

Whilst they were not a major source of AFB, I still quarantine for two seasons, and yes twice over a 20 year period I had swarms with AFB.

 

I have been at talks post varroa where the decrease of swarms has been lamented because it decreases the genetic pool.  I have not studied this, so not sure whether it's bunkum or not. 

 

44 minutes ago, Sailabee said:

omeone would have to go out and euthanise thousands of hives, and burn the lot - I wouldn't want to do that, and I think it would cause an uproar in the media.

 

Perhaps the media could be utilised more re AFB.

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