Lindsay's Apiaries

What is DECA ?

Let's keep it simple what's a DECA?

So I'm a keeper of two hives, or maybe 1000 hives is more your style. Whatever the number, however you paint them, wherever they are located, the hive(s) must be checked for American foulbrood. The Management Agency would prefer that you become proficient in checking for your own American foulbrood, and individually we are on our way to achieving that. Part of the process as a beekeeper is entering into an agreement with the Management Agency to show that:

1. you can recognise American foulbrood
2. that you know what to do with it when you find it and
3. how you are going to eliminate it from your hives.

Notice I say eliminate, not propagate! The whole idea, or if you like, the `aim of the strategy' is to rid New Zealand of American foulbrood.

This agreement is called a Disease Elimination Conformity Agreement, known in short as a DECA.

To obtain a DECA, you need to apply to the Management Agency Contractor: AsureQuality Limited. AsureQuality is looking to see that you understand the numbered points above.

Recognising AFB is the first crucial thing. The earlier you can detect it, the earlier you can deal with the hive(s). Undetected AFB can cause all sorts of problems: one being that if the hive is robbed out, you will start spreading AFB to your other hives in the apiary, and ultimately into the foraging area for bees located around your hives.

Before you apply to have a DECA, you must pass the Disease Recognition and Competency test!

How do you go about doing this? By attending a Disease Recognition and Competency course--whew, let's call it a training day you will learn about AFB firsthand. Your tutor will be skilled in teaching you about what to look for and you are guaranteed to learn about other beekeeping info at the same time. Sometimes it is a chance remark that sticks in your mind that helps you at a later date. At the end of this day you will sit a test: a Disease Recognition and Competency test. You can of course sit this test cold (without the training day); however, think about the information that you will miss out on!

With the results of the test, AsureQuality now knows if you are proficient at looking for and identifying AFB. The other sections of the DECA are how you will deal with it, and how you will eliminate it. Again this information is what you will learn about at your training day and is also in the "Yellow Book" (Elimination of American foulbrood without the use of drugs a practical manual for beekeepers, by Mark Goodwin). If AsureQuality is happy with your application to have a DECA, you will become an Approved Beekeeper.

Being an Approved Beekeeper gives you an exemption from completing a yearly Certificate of Inspection--COI for short.

However, it doesn't exempt you from doing your actual inspection(s); you must still retain records about inspection dates and what you do if you find anything.

Now you have a DECA, it isn't a document to throw in the bottom drawer. It is a living document; i.e., plan to go back over it once a year and ask yourself if you are living up to your agreement. If you aren't in control of your AFB, then revise your agreement and talk to AsureQuality about what you need to change in order to meet the `elimination' part of your agreement.

So what happens if you aren't approved to hold a DECA? You will be sent a Certificate of Inspection. You will need to find an Approved Beekeeper to check your hives for you. They will look for AFB and as long as everything is OK they will sign the Certificate of Inspection to say they have checked the hives and forward this to AsureQuality.

But what is the catch, you say? Most Approved Beekeepers will be busy checking their own hives. The cost for retaining the services of an experienced apicultural professional (see the article on the Exotic Bee Disease programme, page 13) is not unlike the cost of having your car serviced. It could be that their time is worth $50 to 60 per hour, and I hate to put a limit on that. Please note this is not the cost of AsureQuality personnel; their costs would be higher again.

Using an Approved Beekeeper to check your hive(s) has a degree of risk. That will raise a few eyebrows! The risk is that the approved beekeeper only comes once a year to check your hives. If your bees forage and rob out another hive that has AFB, it could be up to one year before disease is found in your hives. The flow-on from this could mean you would have more hives to destroy than if you can identify AFB yourself and deal with it early.

So all in all, it is easier in the long run to have your own DECA. However, for whatever reason if you feel you cannot contemplate the DECA process and if you are willing to pay the service cost there are alternative options for complying with the Pest Management Strategy.

- Fiona O'Brien