Submission on the AFB eradication Strategy

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10
22
Hamilton
Experience
Retired
AFB Review

Dr R.M. Goodwin

Submitter’s Background

As a scientist I have an extensive background in American Foul Brood (AFB):

  • Led a 10-year AFB research programme.
  • Given many lectures on AFB both in New Zealand and in many other countries.
  • Co-authored the AFB manual.
  • Consulted on the development of AFB programmes in other countries.
  • Provided the goal for the current New Zealand Pest Management Strategy (PMS) programme and provided technical support for the team that put the strategy together in the late 1990s. Along with Cliff Van Eaton, I carried out the consultation for the original PMS.
  • Continued involvement in several of the PMS reviews.
As such, I am considered an international expert on both American Foul Brood disease and AFB control programmes.



Discussion


In this submission I will endeavour to address concerns regarding PMS policy, as well as some concerns regarding operational matters.



The Management Agency was originally set up with two committees; one to deal with policy and the second to deal with operation issues. The goal of the group was to eradicate AFB from New Zealand. Within 3 years the policy committee decided it could deal with both operational and policy matters, and the committees were disbanded. Unfortunately, the Management Agency then concentrated primarily on operational issues, such as default AFB hive inspections. The focus on operational matters has been to the determent of the aims the strategy. The decision to disband the committees has also influenced the way that the original strategy has been implemented.



The PMS needs to be careful not to fall into the same trap that the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) programme fell into between 1960 and 1990. Similar programme errors have been made in other countries. The MAF programme did carry out some education, but their primary objective was to find and burn AFB hives faster than beekeepers could infect and create new AFB hives. They failed to achieve their objective. The AFB levels increased from 0.2% to 1.2% over the course of the programme. Generally, programmes like this do not have the funding necessary to successfully implement this approach.



The New Zealand PMS was set up to assist beekeepers to eradicate AFB and not to try controlling AFB for beekeepers, as the MAF programme tried to do. The aim was to change beekeeper behaviour about eradicating AFB. This approach was chosen because all hives are currently inspected for AFB by beekeepers, although some do a better job than others. All AFB is spread because of what beekeepers have or have not done. A small average change in beekeeper behaviour can have a large impact on AFB levels. The intention was to train and engage beekeepers so that they would think about AFB whenever they opened a hive.



As part of the programme, we were going to use four strategy tools to change behaviour. These were:

  • Having a big idea: Promoting a big idea is recognised as a significant tool for changing behaviour. The big idea for the strategy was to eradicate AFB from New Zealand.
  • Comment: The big idea has not been promoted as well as it could be. To assist in changing beekeeper behaviour, consideration should be given to re-emphasizing the idea that we can eradicate AFB from New Zealand. The use of QPCR in the programme could be used to help refresh the big idea of AFB eradication.
  • The legal requirements on management of AFB.
  • Comment: These appear fit for purpose.
  • Implementing an education programme: The PMS included a strong education programme. The content of the PMS was voted on and notified by the Minister.
  • Comment: The education programme has not been carried out as was described in the PMS. The main reason was because of poor advice from MAF at that time. During the development of the Order in Council, MAF advised that we did not need to include education in the Order in Council as we did not need legal powers to carry out education. MAF however did consider education to be important and for this reason it was included in the PMS that was notified by the Minister at the time. But with subsequent changes in MAF staff and the loss of knowledge associated with this, the Ministry came to the opinion that the Management Agency can only do what is in the Order in Council. This opinion should be argued against as education is a vital tool for the implementation of the AFB Pest Management Strategy. The AFB Recognition and Destruction courses have been carried out and are probably fit for purpose. But the end of course exam does need to be reviewed.
  • In the notified PMS there were also to be AFB workshops for approved commercial beekeepers to address issues on how to eliminate AFB from commercial beekeeping businesses. They were also to assist beekeepers with their implementation of AFB eradication plans. The workshops should include discussion about the cost benefit of successfully eradicating AFB. There was supposed to be 13 of these workshops each year, that approved beekeepers would be required to attend. Over the last 20 years there should have been about 250 of these workshops. These have not been carried out even though beekeepers were levied for the implementation of the notified PMS which included these workshops. This has been a major failing with the PMS. These courses are important as they specifically dealt with the group of beekeepers who own most of the hives and consequently own most of the AFB hives. Consideration should be given to running these workshops for commercial beekeepers.
  • Ownership: Engaging the industry to own and address AFB management.
  • Comment: This is an important tool for changing behaviour. Between 1960 and 1990 the program was a MAF programme and beekeepers considered that AFB eradication was a MAF responsibility. If AFB was discussed, the discussion was usually about what MAF was or was not doing. Consequently, AFB levels increased from 0.2% to1.2%. However, when the then National Beekeepers Association was running the programme between 1990 and 2000, and the development of the PMS was occurring, the discussions in beekeeper meetings was all about what they as beekeepers should be doing to eradicate AFB from their own beekeeping outfits and New Zealand. AFB levels decreased during this time not just because of the education programme, but also because of consequential growing awareness by beekeepers that beekeepers are the only people who can eradicate AFB.
  • Unfortunately, since then, in the minds of many beekeepers, the PMS Management Agency appear to have taken over the responsibility for AFB control. Discussion in beekeeper meetings around AFB now, is too often around what the Management Agency is or is not doing. The industry has regressed back to the time when MAF was running the program.

  • The industry needs to refocus, and beekeepers once again need to be part of the solution. The options are:
  • Facilitate the running of local AFB eradication programmes in partnership with beekeeping groups. The low hanging fruit are hobby groups who can be encouraged to eradicate AFB from their urban areas. Hamilton has attempted to do this with little expense to, and only small amount of assistance from the PMS Management Agency. Unfortunately, the AFB Management Agency missed the opportunity to be seen as an equal partner in the eradication attempt. Whether Hamilton succeed in the AFB eradication or not, is of lesser importance than the Management Agency taking the opportunity of promoting the idea that AFB is a beekeeper problem and that the Management Agency is there to empower beekeepers to carry out their eradication activities. The PMS Management Agency should be using these opportunities to advertise itself, and to communicate its role of eradicating AFB from New Zealand. They should provide instructions on how local eradications can be carried out, instructions on handling the media and how the Agency can partner with the eradication programmes. The agency should consider actively promoting and supporting eradication programmes in urban and other areas.
  • Consider taking professional people management advice on other methods of changing beekeeper behaviour and engagement. In other industries collaborative programmes promoting active participation of affected parties, at all levels, to achieve outcomes desired by all parties, have proven to be successful.
  • QPCR: QPCR is a tool that is currently being used for honey. This tool could be used to reduce errors resulting from failing to visually identify affected hives. A contract should be let to determine if it can be used by beekeepers to test bees from hives for AFB and how many hives can be composited in a test. The Hamilton AFB eradication assumed 10 hives, but the actual number needs to be determined so it can be used by beekeepers in their eradication programmes. Consideration should be given to developing QPCR into a test that can be used by beekeepers to support visual identification of affected hives, and eradication of AFB.


Summary

In summary the following actions are strongly recommended:

  • Separation of strategic development from operational implementation so that the strategic objectives drive the operational programmes.
  • Widely communicate the big idea that AFB can be eradicated if the industry commits to doing so.
  • Implement the PMS commercial beekeeper workshops.
  • Facilitation of industry / Management Agency collaboration, communication, and engagement.
  • Support and encourage local eradication projects.
  • Introduction of tools to aid in the identification of AFB affected hives and apiaries.
 
49
65
Canterbury
Experience
Hobbyist
All your suggestions are good Mark. Where did you get the sugestión that beekeepers with an Afb problem are not currently receiving education or advice on Afb management?
 
10
22
Hamilton
Experience
Retired
All your suggestions are good Mark. Where did you get the sugestión that beekeepers with an Afb problem are not currently receiving education or advice on Afb management?
We have a AFB recognition and destruction courses which are great. That is probably ok for hobby beekeepers however I have met hobby beekeepers who have been on the courses but are not competed to inspect a colony for AFB. There are some changes that could be done to those What we don't have is 'how to eradication AFB from a Commercial beekeeping outfit'. The commercial beekeeper workshops should have two aims, education and effecting behaviour changes. Other than AFB recognition it might also cover managing staff, quality assurance for the staff doing inspections, tool for recording hive inspections, qpcr, number and type of inspections, yearly, 5 year and 10 years goals re AFB etc . and a chance for commercial beekeepers to see what other commercial beekeepers are doing.
 
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10
22
Hamilton
Experience
Retired
AFB Pest Management Strategy Board Membership

I am a little bemused by the board appointments. There are some excellent people who end up being on the board, however… Like any board, it needs select board member on the basis of what skills the board needs. For sure they need a commercial beekeeper and hobby beekeeper so the board can have an understanding of these sectors. However, there should be the only two board members chosen because they are beekeepers. The others should be chosen based on what other skills they can bring to the Board. To facilitate this, the boards needs to decided what skills they need other than the two beekeepers. For example, lots of boards need an expert of financial management. The board probably also needs and epidemiologist and possibly someone from the education sector. The board needs go and find the people it needs, or at least advertising for board members with the required skills.
 
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10
22
Hamilton
Experience
Retired
AFB Pest Management Strategy Board

Interestingly, when we set up the strategy we had two boards. One that dealt with policy issues and the second to look after operational issues with the strategy. Unfortunately after about 5 years, the policy board looked at what the operational group was doing and said we can do that and disestablished it. We then had the Policy board doing operational functions. A problem that many boards face. It is the job of the chairperson to try and keep a board from involving itself in operational issues. An example a board for a company I walked for was had an x scientist who noticed out labs were messy. Instead of the board telling the CEO to sort, they got involved in the operational issues of inspecting labs
 
10
22
Hamilton
Experience
Retired
AFB workshops for commercial beekeepers

I know many commercial beekeepers dont think they need to attend annual AFB workshops. We often had that question in the consultation for the strategy. The discussion usually went like this. Sure you probably don't need to attend a workshop but do you know of beekeepers that you think should attend. Th answer was usually yes. The next question was usually how does the management agency know' who needs to attend to go and who doesn't. no one could suggest a better solution than to make everyone attend.

The hope was always to get AFB to be the first thing the thing beekeepers think of when managing hives rather than the 10 thing after varroa, feeding, requeening, etc. Pre varroa we achieved it in the 1990s , however because most of the education for commercial beekeepers stopped in 2000, and varroa turned up AFB got relegated
 
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8,670
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maungaturoto
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AFB workshops for commercial beekeepers

I know many commercial beekeepers dont think they need to attend annual AFB workshops. We often had that question in the consultation for the strategy. The discussion usually went like this. Sure you probably don't need to attend a workshop but do you know of beekeepers that you think should attend. Th answer was usually yes. The next question was usually how does the management agency know' who needs to attend to go and who doesn't. no one could suggest a better solution than to make everyone attend.

The hope was always to get AFB to be the first thing the thing beekeepers think of when managing hives rather than the 10 thing after varroa, feeding, requeening, etc. Pre varroa we achieved it in the 1990s , however because most of the education for commercial beekeepers stopped in 2000, and varroa turned up AFB got relegated

i quite agree. we all tend to get complacent and typically things get short cut due to time or financial pressures.
one way around this is compulsory courses. many industry have mandatory training (or you loose your license) and this really helps in keeping skill levels up. a lot of industries rot because people only do what they where taught 20-30 years ago even tho the situation has changed.

its also not just the beeks, but also the owners/managers. there is a few outfits who are well known for dodgy practises and high afb losses. you can bet their staff will be re-educated after doing any courses. (assuming they are even allowed to attend a course).

commercial only course would be good. quite a few beeks really dislike the heavy hobbyist side of the current courses and the promotion of doing poor afb practises because they are "special" in some way.
 
49
65
Canterbury
Experience
Hobbyist
I can see many good beekeepers getting upset if we are forced to attend a training course just because a small minority needs to attend it. Instead, re training should be compulsory to beekeeping operations who are failing to reduce their AFB incidence by the Afb PMP target each year.
The next question is, who pays for this training. Should it be paid by out levies or should it be "user pays"?
 
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yesbut

Staff member
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Nelson
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. Instead, re training should be compulsory to beekeeping operations who are failing to reduce their AFB incidence by the Afb PMP target each year.
I can see a good many hopeless beeks not bothering to notify AFB. While human nature remains the same, and while the industry breeds rugged individualistic "no one tells me what to do" characters AFB is here to stay.
 
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maungaturoto
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I can see many good beekeepers getting upset if we are forced to attend a training course just because a small minority needs to attend it. Instead, re training should be compulsory to beekeeping operations who are failing to reduce their AFB incidence by the Afb PMP target each year.
The next question is, who pays for this training. Should it be paid by out levies or should it be "user pays"?
well its often a case of tip of the iceberg. you might see only a minority who need it, but i guarantee there is a whole lot more out there they don't know about.
other industries afaik its user pays.
as shown by other industries, a lot of industry problems comes back to poor education. industry rot, where you have most of the industry thinking they are good when they in fact are not.
 
3,519
6,587
Hawkes Bay
Experience
Commercial
I have known those who were not interested in education and we have even had people on this forum who thought that learning to live with AFB rather than killing infected hives would be a good idea (it wouldn't). I have known more who were very willing to learn and did . That the worst offenders I have met over the years are those that knew exactly what AFB was and exactly how to find it but for some reason had a mental block that would not allow them to recognise it when they saw it.
These people if you showed them an infected frame and did a rope test would instantly identify AFB but in their own hives when they saw something suspicious they would just put the frame back without checking. I think they were just hoping it would get better but of course it only ever got worse. If you were looking over their shoulder and pulled them up on it they could absolutely identify which cells were infected. I don't know how common this problem is but I have known a lot more than one or two with this problem just in my area over the years.
It is I believe a mental issue and I'm not quite sure how education can help with that. Certainly ongoing honey testing to identify who has a problem will at least help to identify some of these people. In the past we mainly dealt with the problem by just helping these people on a pretty much continual basis but that is no longer practical with the huge increase in beekeeping.
I am not going to name names but I could and some of those people were responsible for multiple outbreaks over multiple decades of their beekeeping careers. Without the help of the Apiary inspectors\Apiary advisory officers and also their neighbouring beekeepers things would have been a lot worse at least in the short term but there are some that believe that if they had just been left alone they would have very quickly wiped themselves out and their neighbours would have had some short-term pain for a long-term gain.
I am no longer so closely involved with AFB inspection so I don't know how much of a problem this sort of behaviour is these days or whether our local area just had a really bad run but I find it hard to believe that the problem has just disappeared.
 
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maungaturoto
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These people if you showed them an infected frame and did a rope test would instantly identify AFB but in their own hives when they saw something suspicious they would just put the frame back without checking. I think they were just hoping it would get better but of course it only ever got worse. If you were looking over their shoulder and pulled them up on it they could absolutely identify which cells were infected. I don't know how common this problem is but I have known a lot more than one or two with this problem just in my area over the years.
much the same.
"fake checking" is a real problem. a lot of it is they are simply not that interested in doing it, become complacent. not having the drive to do it, especially when they don't know what its like to have to deal with outbreaks. also when they have time and financial pressures.
the other situation is when they think they are better than they actually are. ie i've had queens up because beek thinks hes perfect at finding queens and he declares there is no queen on the frame he lifted up.

i had one beek who said they knew what afb was, but had never heard of pms. which of course looks very similar to afb.
 
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Dansar

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I agree with all of Dr Goodwin’s comments. In particular beekeeper training and the AFB recognition test, (which I don’t think has materially changed since I sat mine nearly 13 years ago) needs a total revamp. In conjunction with this, the DECA application could do with revisiting as well.
 

Dave Black

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Generally, programmes like this do not have the funding necessary to successfully implement this approach.
Interesting thought. Imagine AFB as a new pest incursion. The elimination of Micoplasma bovis is reckoned to cost the industry (ie, not including the Govt's costs and compensation payments) in the order of $300 million. (the whole bill, so far, looks to be $870mil.)
 
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Gisborne Tairawhiti
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Interesting thought. Imagine AFB as a new pest incursion. The elimination of Micoplasma bovis is reckoned to cost the industry (ie, not including the Govt's costs and compensation payments) in the order of $300 million. (the whole bill, so far, looks to be $870mil.)
Although wasn't it envisaged that the disease would cost the NZ industry the same amount if it *wasn't* eradicated, Dave? Could the same amount be said for AFB?
 

Dave Black

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Although wasn't it envisaged that the disease would cost the NZ industry the same amount if it *wasn't* eradicated, Dave? Could the same amount be said for AFB?
The cost of not erradicating MPB was higher John, from memory $2b+.

I'm sure the same argument could be made with AFB, although, just as many countries live with MPB, many counties live with AFB, so the financial issue might not be as clear cut as we would like.

The remark I made was actually directed at the financial scale of the undertaking compared with the cost a running a few AP2s. What Mark suggests (and always has) is that beekeepers need to manage the problem themselves if it's to be done properly and economically and not pay some central quango to do it. Lots of beekeepers acting together have the scale needed at a price we could afford, MPI never will.
 
184
253
Gisborne Tairawhiti
Experience
Researcher
The remark I made was actually directed at the financial scale of the undertaking compared with the cost a running a few AP2s. What Mark suggests (and always has) is that beekeepers need to manage the problem themselves if it's to be done properly and economically and not pay some central quango to do it. Lots of beekeepers acting together have the scale needed at a price we could afford, MPI never will.
In an ideal world . . yes. And to the large extent, they do manage the disease themselves. The agency states that its only dealing with those beekeepers who cannot (or will not) manage it themselves. And this is a small minority of beekeepers . . unfortunately with the ability to each infect large areas !
 
10
22
Hamilton
Experience
Retired
I can see many good beekeepers getting upset if we are forced to attend a training course just because a small minority needs to attend it. Instead, re training should be compulsory to beekeeping operations who are failing to reduce their AFB incidence by the Afb PMP target each year.
The next question is, who pays for this training. Should it be paid by out levies or should it be "user pays"?
The courses should be paid for by the management agency. To do this they need to stop doing some things. When we set up the Pest Management Strategy, hive inspections were only to be done for two reasons. The first was default inspections for beekeepers who fail to carry out their legal requirements. The beekeepers were to be charged for these inspections and the PMA was given legal powers to collect the money. The only other inspections that were to occur , to be paid for by the agency were to audit some DECA holders.

Management Agencies Job was not to go looking for AFB for beekeepers, however I see us doing this. We do not have the budget to try and find AFB hives faster than beekeepers can create new AFB hives. The money spent here, should be spent on the workshops where it will have a much large return for the $$ spent than looking for AFB hives
 
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