Detection of varroa mite in Port of Newcastle threatens Australia’s bee industry

Written by Javed Iqbal

Varroa mite has been detected in biosafety monitoring sites in the port of Newcastle, threatening the bee industry.

Australia has been the only continent that remained free of the parasitewith previous detections in Queensland and Victoria extinguished.

That Varroa destructorcommonly called varroamide, it spreads viruses that paralyze bees’ ability to fly, gather food, or get out of their cell to be born.

It also significantly reduces their ability to pollinate crops.

Varroa mites on honey bee tits.
Beehives in the United States fell by about 30 percent and native bipopulations in NZ by 90 percent when varroamide arrived there.(Provided: Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry)

NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said an emergency biosecurity zone was now in place around Newcastle Harbor and that the contaminated hives had been contained.

Beekeepers within 50 kilometers of the port are told not to move or tamper with their hives.

“It’s a really worrying situation. We are now urging beekeepers across the state to help protect their industry,” Mr Saunders said.

Saunders said a varroamide outbreak could cost the agricultural industry $ 70 million a year in losses.

Every third mouthful of food benefits from honey bee pollination, and some crops such as almonds, blueberries, avocados and apples are completely dependent on pollination.

A queen bee among hundreds of bees on a hive frame.
NSW DPI has confirmed that varroamide has been found in the port of Newcastle. (ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

It has been reported that beekeeping in the United States decreased by about 30 percent when it was found there, and the native bipopulation decreased by 90 percent when it arrived in New Zealand.

Australia has a National Bee Pest Surveillance Program, which includes an early warning system to detect new intrusions of exotic bee pests.

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Javed Iqbal

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