Anyone who arrives in New Zealand by plane knows about Biosecurity NZ. Bio means ‘living’ and security means safe. Biosecurity NZ is a government department. Their job is to make our country safe from unwanted living pests. These pests are plants, animals and diseases that come from other countries. Because New Zealand is isolated and surrounded by sea, we think we have a good chance of keeping out unwanted pests. When you arrive, you have to fill in a form to show you don’t have any plant or animal products from another country.

However, sometimes unwanted pests come in shipping containers and sometimes these pests are just very small insect eggs which are hard to see. These can hatch out to cause serious problems in our country. A few years ago, we had a moth, the Painted Apple Moth, in Auckland. This moth eats trees like native trees in our forests. So Biosecurity NZ sprayed parts of Auckland from the air by plane which made some people very angry. But the moths have gone.

The varroa bee mite is a little insect that kills bees. It was first found in New Zealand in the North Island, in 2000. Perhaps it came here in a shipping container. Biosecurity NZ tried to stop it from spreading to the rest of New Zealand by stopping beekeepers from moving bees from one area to another. But two years ago, the varroa mite was found in the north of the South Island. Again Biosecurity NZ tried to control the spread but today, the Minister of Agriculture, announced that it is impossible to stop it now. The varroa mite is probably everywhere in New Zealand.

This is bad news for our economy. Honey is an important product but bees are even more important because they pollinate crops. Without bees, many plants will not grow seeds or fruit. Clover is a small green plant with a white flower that grows along with grass in fields. Clover is important to the farmer because it belongs to the same family as peas and beans: these all fix nitrogen in the soil. Clover needs bees for pollination.

Biosecurity will now spend money on research to kill the varroa mite but no country has been successful in getting rid of the varroa.

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