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Biosafety zone created after deadly honey biparasite found in NSW

Written by Javed Iqbal

The Varroa mite, also known as the Varroa Destroyer, was spotted in hives at Newcastle Harbor by biosafety surveillance.

The mite is considered to be the most serious pest of honey bees worldwide and is not currently found in Australia.

The Varroa Destroyer has been devastating to bee colonies around the world.
The Varroa Destroyer has been devastating to bee colonies around the world. (USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab)

NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said the state government is acting quickly to limit a possible outbreak.

“We immediately launched an eradication plan, which involved the creation of a biosafety zone, containing the infected hives and killing the bees,” Saunders said.

“Australia is the only major honey-producing country free of varroa mite, and if it has the chance to establish itself here, it could cost the honey industry more than $ 70 million a year.”

Varroa destroyers cling to and party with bees.
Varroa destroyers cling to and party with bees. (USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab)

The biosafety zone extends within a 50 km radius of Newcastle Harbor.

Beekeepers within that zone are not allowed to move or tamper with their hives.

They are also asked to contact the NSW Department of Primary Industries with the location of all their hives.

A radius of 50 km from the port of Newcastle would extend north past Nelson Bay, south to Wyong and west to Branxton.

It will include Cessnock, Maitland, Raymond Terrace and Tea Gardens.

“If it were not for their diligence in monitoring hives and catch boxes at strategic locations around our ports and airports, this threat could have been undetected,” Saunders said.

Varroa destructors are small reddish-brown parasites.

Varroa destroyers are seen on a bee-pupa.
Varroa destroyers are seen on a bee-pupa. (US Department of Agriculture)

Although they are very small, they can be identified with the naked eye.

The parasite adheres to the body of honeybees and spreads disabling viruses such as deformed wing viruses.

Bees are often left unable to develop and function properly by varroa destroyers that feed on them.

Varroa destroyers have been widely accused of large-scale colonial collapse among beehives.

The Varroa destroyer was found on bees in the port of Newcastle.
The Varroa destroyer was found on bees in the port of Newcastle. (Kate Geraghty)

In addition to providing honey, bees are necessary for the pollination of many other vital crops.

They include potatoes, onions, apples, grapes, citrus fruits, cotton and coffee.

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Javed Iqbal

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