Beekeepers using Kiwi-designed bait battle 'major' wasp problem

A child looks at bees at the Christchurch Hobbyist Beekeepers' Club's stall at the Canterbury A&P Show on Wednesday.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

A child looks at bees at the Christchurch Hobbyist Beekeepers' Club's stall at the Canterbury A&P Show on Wednesday.

Canterbury's beekeepers are stepping up their fight against wasps using a Kiwi-made wasp bait.

From their stall at the Canterbury A&P Show on Wednesday, the Christchurch Hobbyist Beekeepers' Club was educating show-goers about the threat posed by the stripy pests.

Club committee member Kevin Gates said wasps in Canterbury were a "major" problem.

Richard Toft, designer of a highly effective protein-based wasp pesticide that is unattractive to bees.
DELWYN DICKEY

Richard Toft, designer of a highly effective protein-based wasp pesticide that is unattractive to bees.

Across New Zealand, wasps cause an estimated $120 million of damage to bee pollination and lost honey production year.

"They get into our hives and eat our bees . . . they cut them in half and cart them out to feed to wasps back at the nest," Gates said.

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Wasps are a "major" problem for beekeepers across the country. A Kiwi-designed bait is helping in the fight against the pest.
RICHARD TOFT

Wasps are a "major" problem for beekeepers across the country. A Kiwi-designed bait is helping in the fight against the pest.

As other club members showed off trays of live bees and fresh honey, Gates said he lost 15 per cent of his 80 hives to wasps this season.

Since using Vespex, a bee-friendly wasp bait designed by Nelson-based company Merchento, Gates said wasp numbers around his Canterbury hives had dropped.

"We got skilled up on how to use it using their online course, bought the stuff and started using it," Gates said.

Previously, the biggest challenge faced by beekeepers was finding the wasp's nest, but now they took the bait back to their nest and "kill the nest from the inside".

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Merchento managing director Richard Toft said the baiting system was developed with the Department of Conservation and a pilot programme on conservation land last year produced "excellent" results.

"The bait was able to reduce wasp numbers by more than 95 per cent in forests that were previously seething with wasps," Toft said.

"Wasps take the bait from bait stations to feed their larvae, so the nests are destroyed without us needing to find them."

In November last year, Toft won a $25,000 grant from World Wildlife Fund New Zealand, which meant production of the bait was able to increase.

Following a short training course, the bait was available to councils, beekeepers, farmers, tourism operators, vineyards and orchards.

 - Stuff

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