Feral bee colony numbers decreasing
Honey bees exist as feral colonies in many parts of New Zealand. Their numbers have, however, been decreasing since varroa became established in the North Island sometime before April 2000.
The presence of feral colonies is not seen as an impediment to eliminating AFB. Feral colonies can develop AFB infections, but are not a major source of infection for managed colonies. This is because they are generally short-lived and usually only become infected with AFB when their foragers rob honey from infected colonies.
Managed colonies however, become infected by robbing infected hives, having infected bees drift into them, and most frequently, by a beekeeper adding infected equipment. New Zealand experience shows that beekeepers who have eliminated AFB from their own beehives are usually not subject to re-infections from local feral colonies.
Positive research signs
As the incidence of AFB in managed hives decreases, so too will the incidence in feral colonies, since research has shown that in New Zealand in most circumstances feral colonies are at a greater risk of becoming infected with the disease from managed hives, than are managed hives from ferals. Nevertheless, under certain circumstances, feral colonies may be an important source of infection, either because of local conditions, or because the managed colonies in the area are free of the disease. This website therefore includes information on testing feral colonies for AFB, and destroying infected feral colonies.
Feral colonies are not usually an important factor in the spread of AFB.