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February 5, 2023

Varroa mite Red Zone expansion

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Australia has a $147M honey bee industry. Photo https://beeaware.org.au.

A new detection of Varroa mite near Lochinvar brings the number of confirmed infested premises to 104.

Varroa mites are small external parasites of honey bees. Reddish-brown in colour, they mainly target larvae and pupae of honeybees. They are the most serious pest to honeybees worldwide, and can destroy colonies if left unchecked. Australia is the only major honey producer in the world free from them.

All beekeepers are now mandated to carry out alcohol wash surveillance at least every 16 weeks.

The current eradication zone will be expanded to cover this infestation, and a new biosecurity order has been made, according to NSW DPI Chief Plant Protection Officer Satendra Kumar.

NSW DPI is putting significant resources into surveillance across the purple zones which surround the red zones, so it is not unexpected that we would find some mites, Mr Kumar said.

The purple zone is there so we can delimit the spread of the Varroa mite from the infested sites and we remain confident in containment.

Response staff have carried out surveillance on over 10,000 hives in the purple zone, and almost 30,000 hives state-wide.

Beekeepers have tested over 85,000 hives through the approved hive movement program in the General Emergency Zone.

‘We have almost successfully euthanised all managed hives in the red zone, but we are hearing some reports of people attempting to establish, or re-establish bees, which is not allowed under the emergency order,’ he said.

‘The goal of the Varroa mite Response is the full eradication of the parasite from NSW, which is the best outcome for Australia’s $147M honey bee industry, the $14.2B pollination reliant industries and the communities they support.

‘Full eradication requires us to euthanise 100% of Varroa hosts, being all European honey bees in the red zones, managed and wild, and to ensure the red zones are free from Varroa mite for a period of time to support a declaration that Australia is free of the mite.’

Euthanising all bees in these areas removes any chance of Varroa mite surviving and spreading undetected through potential future hosts, where incubation of the parasite may be happening.

‘NSW DPI knows this is difficult for beekeepers and appreciates the cooperation we are seeing from the majority of people,’ Dr Kumar said.

‘Reimbursement is available for registered beekeepers in the red zone in consideration of the financial impact of the response and acknowledgement that it may be a few years before hives can be managed in this zone.

‘Our aim is to get to this freedom of Varroa as soon as possible, and we will be keeping our communication lines open so that beekeepers know how things are progressing.’

If Varroa mites are detected, call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline to report your detection on 1800 084 881.

More information is available from NSW DPI: https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/varroa.

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