Southern North Island Beekeeping Group Ltd


Yesterday, (11/06/2018) I and about 30 others attended the Wasp Tactical Group Meeting at Victoria University. This is part of the National Science Challenge. You can read the latest report on line: ( click on Resources, then “highlights of 2017” where you can read the report at the bottom.) They have $250,000 of funding for science project and had called for submission from those wanting additional funding.

Nine different research groups presented 20 minute presentations, plus we heard of how the public received new research proposals, and another from a Māori point of view. These were interest, in that the percentage opposed increased when they were given more information on a new technology so it’s very important to engage with the public and bring them along.

These talks were very interests as they were from teams on current projects which were not yet published.

One wanted help to cover a PHD student to do some research.

Another wanted research funding to identify all the pheromones virgin queen wasps use to attract a mate. Were they the same for each species? We have known about the different chemical make-up of a queen honey bees pheromone but so far they have only just discovered the location of the gland that produces these in the Vespula wasps. This is because they are not the same problem in other places in the world. Our scientists collecting parasites in the UK said that the locals didn’t like to see their wasp nests killed as there are not many of them about. You can understand this when you see the action of some of the parasites.

Another requested funding to assist with gene drive research: identifying genes that are specific to just one specie and splicing in something to disrupt reproduction for instance perhaps.

One was to further study trojan mites.

One wanted funding to do some modelling of actions. An observed comment picked everybody’s interest up. Three off shore island that had been cleared of rats and mice had also causes the Vespula wasps to also die off. This had been observed overseas but not studied further. Some suggested that this should be studied as it might help in clear wasps on our main islands. Another wanted $5K for DNA research on wasp brains.

Some could have used all the money, some just a small part.

After the presentation, we split into four groups, and talked about each submission and weighted them in preference order. It was interest to see what each group came up with and then those overseeing it put everybody’s comments together and will present these to the next Board meeting for approval.

Two had noted that Vespex hadn’t worked; one locally in Pahatanui and another in an Auckland park. Works very well in the beech forests of the South Islands where there is little protein but not in some rural areas. Too much alternative protein available for the wasps to use perhaps. Some beekeepers have also found this.

I gave a quick summary of the tests I had undertaken on the thermal imaging camera Kevin Gibbs had loan me. A great hunting aid. I wish I had one twenty years ago, I would have brought home more meat. It could identify when there was a rabbit in a burrow buy the difference in temperature but I found it couldn’t identify the small difference in ground temperature change from an underground wasps nest and hardly so at distance of five feet. Just shows how well insulated the envelope the wasps build from wood fibre around their nest. So I’m still looking for a thermal imaging camera that is affordable and works from 10 metres away.

So what did I learn. Wasp alarm pheromone is produced from the sting.

The queen pheromone is produce from under the abdmon between the 6th and 7th segment. I.E. the same location but on the opposite side to the nasonov gland in a worker bee.

When Vespula wasps disappeared off an island, paper wasps still remained.

When the European paper wasp Polistes dominula spreads to the North Island we will soon know about it. Apparently they are very aggressive in defending their nest and the sting really hurts. This specie is found around the Nelson area at present.


Those in city areas should all know about common wasps and learn to identify them.

New Zealand beekeepers lost an opportunity to have a cheap DNA test to identify all the pollens in their honey. Apparently the Otago University developed the technology but no New Zealand company would take it up so its been sold to America. Used to be that some of us were interest in what pollens were in our honey and at what proportion but interests have changed and now they only want to know if manuka pollen is there.

When we use the old microscopy technology, one of my bush honey samples had 15% tutin pollen. I was a surprise to me but when I thought about it, if we had rain once a week, these bushes keep growing and flowering right through the summer.

Another thing I did know is that beekeeper have been very poor at putting money forward for research. If manuka producers put 1% into research we could fund a million dollars of research each year.

Frank Lindsay

Southern North Island Beekeeping Group Ltd