Honey industry pest-watch

TASMANIA’S peak honey industry has called for vigilance to ensure varroa mite is kept out of the state after the discovery of the pest in New South Wales last week.

A detection of the mite, also known as varroa destructor at Newcastle last Wednesday led to a rapid response by the NSW DPI. A 10km eradication zone, 25km surveillance zone and 50km biosecurity zone has been set up outside the harbour, while movement of bees in the state has been stopped. The mite has the potential to devastate colonies of bees due to its ability to transmit diseases within and between colonies.

Tasmanian Beekeepers Association president Lyndsey Bourke says if the mite were to establish in the country it would be devastating to bees, beekeepers and farmers. “We’ve got an easy way of living in Australia as we’re the only country in the world to not have it. “We saw in the outbreak in New Zealand that a lot of beekeepers just walked away from their hives as it was too labour intensive and expensive to treat,” Mr Bourke said. “The lockdown of New South Wales is certainly a worry as 34 per cent of the country’s beehives are in the state and hundreds of thousands of bees go from there to pollinate other states.

“It will be a big worry for Victoria’s upcoming almond crops.” Mr Bourke praised the efforts of Biosecurity Tasmania in keeping small hive beetle out of the state, but says the mite is a different type of threat. “We’ll have to help biosecurity where we can as these mites will come in on a swarm,” he said. “We will likely see them on machinery and containers that have been sitting in paddocks and sheds. “We beekeepers buy queen bees from the mainland every year.

“They’re held in quarantine and inspected on arrival, so it won’t come through that way. “I am very worried about what is happening on the mainland. “The mites have been here for a while undetected if they’ve infected that many hives over that distance.”

“For now, we’re meeting with beekeeping executives in the state to establish more hive inspections and sugar shake testing in the state. “Our biosecurity officers are doing a great job, but we all have to remain vigilant,” he said.