New Zealand bees are disappearing in huge numbers, and independent scientists have identified a new parasite in bees on the Coromandel peninsula, one of several regions around New Zealand that have reported the loss of thousands of colonies of honey bees since last spring and a substantial drop in honey harvests.

Lotmaria passim, a parasite that attacks the gut of honey bees, was only discovered by a team of American researchers about six months ago, according to Rob Tipa reporting for NZFarmer.co.nz.

This parasite is another major biosecurity challenge for their industry on the heels of the varroa mite which arrived in the North Island in 2000.

Beekeeping sources confirm bee losses on the Coromandel Peninsula last spring amounted to thousands of colonies, and that is just one region of the country reporting huge loses.

Also, surviving colonies of bees on the Coromandel had very high levels of Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae, two recently discovered unicellular parasites that also attack the gut of honey bees, wrote Tipa.

Coromandel commercial beekeeper and scientist Oksana Borowik, Ph.D., was quoted as saying, "We've tested for pesticide exposure and we haven't found any evidence of that."

Plant and Food Research scientist Mark Goodwin, Ph.D., was quoted as saying, "My guess is this new organism has been here for a while actually, unless it's a completely new incursion from a biosecurity failure, but we don't know if it has just come in or if it has been here for years."

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