A mite, the Varroa mite, that infects bees and bee colonies was detected in Biosecurity Hives at the Port of Newcastle, on 22 June 2022.
NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders instantly placed a 10 km Quarantine Zone around the Port. This zone has now been extended to 50km.
A week later a total “Bee Lockdown” – an Emergency Biosecurity Order which prohibits any movement of bees or beehives throughout the State of NSW.
This means is you must not move any bees in NSW at present.
“Australia is the only major honey producing country free from Varroa mite, the most serious pest to honey bees worldwide,” Minister Saunders said.
So, in a nutshell, Australia was, up until 22 June 2022 one of the few countries in the world that was not infested with the Varroa mite – a mite that has destroyed bee populations and honey production worldwide.
We all know that without bees pollinating plants, especially produce we eat, food will become a scarcity. It seems one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat has been pollinated by bees.
If the Varroa mite gets loose it will decimate production of Australian honey, and then we must also consider the knock-on effects of reduced pollination of Australian Agricultural products. And what will happen to prices? An upwards spiral could well be the result. The cost to Industry – frightening.
The Varroa mite (an arachnid – so has eight legs), is known scientifically as Varroa destructor, an organism that is a carrier of at least 5 viruses that affect the ability of bees to fly, which stops them gathering pollen, nectar, and carrying viruses that also stop young bees emerging from their incubating cells in the hive.
Just having a scientific species name of “destructor” tells us that this mite causes plenty of damage.
Varroa mites are native to Asia and were first detected in bee colonies in Japan well over 100 years ago. This mite has now reached all continents on planet Earth (except Antarctica, of course.)
The Acting Chief Executive of the Australian Honey Bee Council (Mr. Danny LeFeuvre) stated that –
“The NSW Department of Primary Industries staff are going door to door to make sure all hives are accounted for in the Newcastle area.”
Apparently, a significant mite infestation in late Autumn to early Spring usually leads to the death of entire honey bee colonies, and the various authorities are alerting local beekeepers.
If you know of hives, whether owned by a beekeeper who isn’t registered (they will have no number on the hives) or feral hives anywhere in your area, then please contact the DPI with their location.
For those who are in the 50km exclusion zone, you cannot move any bees, hives or components into, out of or within that zone. This also includes taking honey or comb from the hive.
The Varroa mite is quite small and coloured ‘reddish brown’ – obviously not the black small hive beetle (with 6 legs).
In Queensland, a successful Varroa mite eradication program, led by Biosecurity Queensland, commenced around the Port of Townsville in 2016 and declared ‘eradicated’ on 1 July 2020.
In Victoria, Varroa mite was detected in a ship’s cargo, emanating from the USA at the Port of Melbourne in June 2018. This infestation was also eradicated.
However with the latest news the bees are here and further heading north is deeply concerning and questions should be asked how this catastrophe happened at the Port of Newcastle.
For information call the Dept. Primary Industries on 1800 084 881