Breeder faces wait before he knows why his bees died

New Zealand honey bees have relied on David Yanke's breeding work.

New Zealand honey bees have relied on David Yanke's breeding work.

It could take up to 10 days before Northland bee breeder David Yanke knows the results of tests to prove whether or not his bees have been poisoned.

Yanke discovered at Easter that at least half of the queens that he produces to sell to beekeepers had died, causing up to $100,000 worth of damage to his business.

He immediately supplied the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) with bee samples so that they could test for the presence of an exotic pest or disease.

An MPI spokeswoman said testing had ruled out an exotic organism as the cause of the mortalities, and it had also eliminated some common potential poisons.

"While MPI's chief driver is to rule in or out any biosecurity issue (that is, an introduced pest or disease), the Ministry does look at poisoning in the course of this kind of investigation to see if we can obtain an answer to the problem," the spokeswoman said. 

"Investigators have asked Mr Yanke to submit further specimens so that MPI can look for some other potential poisoning agents."

"Results of these additional tests are approximately ten days away," the spokeswoman said.

Yanke provides a vital service to the bee industry. For the past 34 years he has improved the genetics of bees to boost the vigour of existing honey bee varieties.

He has also played a leading role in importing new varieties of bees so the industry is not dependent on one or two.

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