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February 5, 2023

Varroa mite Emergency Order still in effect

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

Beekeepers are reminded that the Varroa Mite Emergency Order still in effect in NSW, with close to 12,000 hives in the surveillance purple zone and more than 30,000 hives statewide having been tested to date.

‘Varroa mites are parasitic mites, which require a honey bee host to survive and reproduce,’ according to Bee Aware.

‘Heavy Varroa mite infestations can build up in 3–4 years and cause scattered brood, crippled and crawling honey bees, impaired flight performance, a lower rate of return to the colony after foraging, a reduced lifespan and a significantly reduced weight of worker bees. This ultimately causes a reduction in the honey bee population, supersedure of queen bees and eventual colony breakdown and death.’

Varroa mite map. Image https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/emergencies/biosecurity/current-situation/varroa-mite-emergency-response.

Mandatory surveillance

All beekeepers across NSW are required to carry out mandatory surveillance on their hives as part of the effort to eradicate Varroa mite, says the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

The provision, which was introduced under the Emergency Order in September 2022, requires beekeepers to conduct alcohol washes at least every 16 weeks and report the results to DPI.

Varroa mite Emergency Response Coordinator Chris Anderson said the beekeeping community has shown strong support for eradication after Varroa mite was detected in sentinel hives near the Port of Newcastle in June.

‘Surveillance is a critical part of the effort required to achieve the goal of eradicating the mite and we need beekeepers to work with us to establish the base of data needed to maintain confidence in containment,’ said Mr Anderson.

‘The requirement for beekeepers to carry out alcohol wash surveillance on their hives at least three times a year, no more than 16 weeks apart was introduced alongside other measures that provided more flexibility for essential beekeeping operations to continue.

The underside of an adult female varroa mite – in reality they are 1-1.8mm long. Photo Wikipedia.

‘That data, along with our surveillance operations, is vital to the response because even negative results will help us to establish a more comprehensive picture of the situation.’

‘It is the responsibility of beekeepers to ensure they are aware of and are meeting their requirements under the Emergency Order as non-compliance can result in significant penalties and fines,’ Mr Anderson said.

Due to the measure being introduced in September 2022, all beekeepers should have completed the alcohol wash process at least once by mid-January.

Beekeepers can report results of alcohol washes to DPI by calling 1800 084 881 or via the online form at  www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/alcohol-wash.

It is estimated that there are more than 380,000 registered hives currently in NSW.

For more information about the Varroa mite response visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/varroa

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