Technical Report 49: Disease Survey of Honey Bees in Fiji (FIJI15)

Disease Survey of Honey Bees inFiji – Technical Report 49: (FIJI15) – 2013

The Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA) is designed to address constraints to market access from primary production products, including honey and other bee products.

PHAMA funded the current bee disease survey to assist Fiji in establishing and maintaining market access to Australia and New Zealand, with potential interest in exporting to China, Japan, Korea and the European Union.

This bee disease survey was carried out by Tony Roper and Marco Gonzalez of AsureQuality Limited, New Zealand, from 8–17 April 2013.

Previous bee disease surveys were conducted by Simpson in 1983, by Anderson in 1986 and by Driscoll, Goodwin and McBrydie in December 2000 and January.

A further bee disease survey was undertaken by Yong Jung Kwon et al. from January–March

The Fijian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) undertakes bee disease surveys as well (Prasad, 2013 pers. comm). Currently, honey and other bee products entering New Zealand from a number of Pacific island countries (PICs) must be accompanied by a zoosanitary certificate issued by the veterinary authority of the exporting country which certifies that:

  • The honey originates from that country; and
  • The country is free from European foulbrood (EFB) caused by Melissococcus pluton.

(EFB is a bacterial disease that affects the developing brood and is controlled in many countries by feeding antibiotics to beehives. EFB-causing bacteria can be transmitted in bee products, especially honey and pollen. EFB has never been detected in Fiji or New Zealand, but regular surveys by competent personnel, and reporting to international authorities, are required to confirm this status. EFB is present in Australia.)

Fiji is not included on the list of PICs covered by this Import Health Standard (IHS), so access to New Zealand would need to be negotiated. The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), formerly the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, revised the IHS for Specified Processed Bee Products in June

However, this standard is on hold while issues with a similar IHS for bee products from Australia are resolved. It is likely that any application to import bee products into New Zealand would not be considered until the new IHS for bee products has been established, which won’t be until 2014.

The survey team inspected 523 beehives for bee diseases and pests – in particular, EFB, Chalkbrood and the Small Hive Beetle (SHB). 40 samples of bees were collected from these hives for testing in New Zealand for Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and four known isolates of Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), the microsporidian Nosema ceranae, the internal or tracheal mite Acarapis woodi and the external mites Varroa spp and Tropilaelaps spp. A further 53 samples of bees were also collected for screening in Fiji. Each sample of bees contained around 150 bees per sample jar.

All these diseases, except DWV, A. woodi and the external mites, were raised as pathogens of concern by the beekeeping industry in New Zealand following the risk analysis done by MPI to allow heat-treated honey from Australia into New Zealand. DWV was found in New Zealand in 2007. A. woodi and the external mites Varroa spp and Tropilaelaps spp are not transmitted in honey. Varroa destructor is endemic in New Zealand.

Since the IHS was reviewed, MPI has confirmed the presence of Paenibacillus alvei and Nosema ceranae in New Zealand. A nationwide survey, plus ongoing annual sampling and testing, has not detected the presence of IAPV in New Zealand, and this remains a bee disease of issue with the New Zealand beekeepers (McFadden, AMJ, Tham, K, et al., 2012).

Bees were tested for DWV, Nosema ceranae, the tracheal mite, and Varroa spp and Tropilaelaps spp in case Fiji is in a position to export live bees, queen cells or drone semen in the future. Bees were also observed for the presence of the exotic Asian honey bee, Apis cerana. This was important because the presence of Apis cerana, with its associated pests and diseases, could limit the export potential of live bees.

MoA’s Animal Health and Production Division found one case of American foulbrood (AFB) in 2006 (Tavua) and 14 cases in 2011 (Lautoka). Four cases of AFB were detected in the current survey. AFB is one of the most widespread and serious honey bee diseases in the world. This disease is endemic in New Zealand and is controlled by inspection and burning infected bees, combs and hive equipment.

Some approved beekeepers can recover infected equipment by dipping in paraffin wax heated to 160C for at least 10 minutes. AFB in New Zealand is subject to a Pest Management Plan. It is recommended that inspection for AFB be included in an annual surveillance program and that the current destruction policy for AFB-infected material continues.

The team inspected 532 colonies (6.5%) and sampled approximately 279 colonies from a population of approximately 8800 colonies. New Zealand has a target inspection rate of 1.4% of hives under its exotic honey bee disease surveillance program. However, all hives in New Zealand must be inspected for AFB each year by an approved beekeeper, which increases the possibility of beekeepers finding an exotic bee disease or pest.

The survey team inspected 31 apiaries and 2 feral colonies. There is no official apiary register, but based on Kamal Prasad’s Fijian beekeeping statistics the team inspected around 3.1% of managed apiaries, compared to New Zealand’s target surveillance rate of 2.6%.

The Asian honey bee, Apis cerana, was not detected on Viti Levu or Vanua Levu. Awareness raising measures such as posters at ports and pamphlets for commercial and recreational sailors could help to reduce the chance of the Asian honey bees arriving in the Fijian islands. A meeting was held with senior Fijian Biosecurity staff at Nadi International Airport to discuss ways of detecting Apis cerana at the ports.

The Fijian Biosecurity staff have a critical role to play in detecting any incursions early and quickly passing this information on to MoA’s Animal Health and Production Division for further investigation.

Laboratory analysis in New Zealand of the Fijian bee samples did not detect any case of DWV or IAPV, the tracheal mite Acarapis woodi, or the external mites Varroa spp and Tropilaelaps spp. The external mite Acarapis externus was detected on bees sampled from five apiaries. These mites are common in New Zealand and are not known to cause any harm to honey bees.

The microsporidian Nosema ceranae was detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 6 of the 20 apiaries tested (30%). Previous surveys did not test for the presence of Nosema ceranae, so it is not known how long it has been present in Fiji. Nosema ceranae was confirmed in New Zealand in 2010 using PCR technology. It is not known what pathological effect, if any, this species of nosema is having on honey bees either in New Zealand or in Fiji.

EFB has never been reported in Fiji and no evidence of this disease was found during this survey or during past surveys. Two suspect larval samples were tested in the New Zealand laboratory for EFB using PCR and both tested negative. No clinical signs of Chalkbrood were sighted during the survey.

No cases of tracheal mites or SHB were found. Also there was no evidence of the African honey bee (Apis mellifera scutellata) or the Cape honey bee (Apis mellifera capensis). These beekeeping pests and honey bee sub-species are not transmitted through honey.

Other minor diseases were reconfirmed as being present, such as the greater and lesser wax moths (which also exist in New Zealand). Cane toads are a major pest of honey bees in Fiji, but their effects can be moderated by raising hives off the ground on stands. Various species of ants, cockroaches, centipedes and lizards were also found living in or around the hives, but these are not transmitted live
in honey.

The risk pathways into Fiji for an exotic honey bee disease or pest are considerable, with ongoing importation of honey from Australia, and regular shipping and air flights from a number of countries (plus visiting cruise ships and yachts) that could have honey on board. Tourists represent a biosecurity risk and tourist numbers more than doubled from 2000 to 2011 (

Importation of honey into Fiji is managed under the Biosecurity Promulgation 2008 Act. This document requires honey imports to be restricted. Only honey imports over 20 kg must be accompanied by an import permit ( The risk of importing EFB and Chalkbrood disease with personally accompanied supplies of honey (up to 20 kg) needs to be considered, even though such
personal use consignments must be accompanied by receipts from a supermarket or evidence of processing in a government registered premise. Evidence of the origin of the bee products will not reduce the risk of importing an exotic bee disease.

In order to retain stability in the local market as honey production increases, it will be necessary to investigate export opportunities. At present, Fiji does not produce sufficient honey to satisfy local demand, but this could change over the next few years. Fiji exported two tonnes of honey to Australia and the United States in 2012.

Other recommendations are made concerning colony management, surveillance for bee diseases, training, and quarantine extension.

Summary and Conclusions

In Fiji, 523 managed colonies out of a total of approximately 8800 available were inspected for bee diseases and pests, and in particular for EFB and AFB. This is a hive inspection rate of 6.5%, compared to the target surveillance rate of 1.4% in New Zealand.

Thirty one apiaries were visited, which is approximately 3.0% of the estimated total number of apiaries. This compares to New Zealand’s apiary selection rate of 2.6%.

In New Zealand, MPI contracts AsureQuality Limited to inspect and sample 350 apiaries each year using AsureQuality staff or warranted beekeepers, and to collect samples from another 300 apiaries that supplied live bees for export. The latter are examined for internal and external mites only.

In addition to inspecting managed colonies in Fiji, bees from two feral colonies were also checked for presence of the Asian honey bee. Both of the feral colonies were found to be European honey bees.

No cases of EFB or HMD were confirmed, and no evidence of CCD, PMS, or Chalkbrood were seen.

Samples were taken from two colonies exhibiting some of the symptoms of EFB and HMD for laboratory analysis. No causative pathogens are associated with HMD and the samples were negative for EFB.

Four cases of AFB were detected; however, this disease has been known to be in Fiji for some time now. Clinical signs of Sacbrood virus infection were also found in some hives.

No field evidence was found of SHB or the very aggressive African honey bee or the Cape honey bee.

Both the greater and lesser wax moths (Galleria mellonella and Achroia grisella) were seen in weak and dead hives, sometimes in very high numbers. The warm tropical climate in Fiji is ideal for the wax moths.

Cockroaches, lizards, snails and centipedes were also reasonably common, as were several species of ants. None of these appear to be causing a problem to the hives. All have been seen in previous surveys.

Cane toads are also present in Fiji and can be a major problem to bee farmers, as they eat a lot of bees. Hives are raised above the ground on stands; the only places where cane toads appeared to be causing a problem was where the stands were too low.

Download full report here:

Technical Report 49: Disease Survey of Honey Bees in
Fiji (FIJI15)

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