Industry support for Purple Hives

THE introduction of automated hive surveillance systems at Tasmanian ports could well be the difference between an early detection and an outbreak of Varroa mite and small hive beetle, says Lindsay Bourke.

Currently Tasmania uses sentinel hives at its ports to detect incoming Varroa mite and small hive beetle. These methods require a physical inspection of still operating hives in order to detect any mites or beetles present. A positive detection will then lead to a lockdown. Mr Bourke, who is President of the Tasmanian Beekeepers Association, said while the use of sentinel hives was still vitally important, the incursion of pests like the Varroa mite and the small hive beetle need an instant response.

“The sentinel hive program has been around for 15-odd years and we know it’s pretty good, but it’s not an instant quarantine situation,” Mr Bourke said. “By the time a mite or beetle has gotten into a sentinel hives and it has been detected by an inspection it’s already a bit late. “They tried this system in New Zealand and it didn’t work in keeping Varroa out.”

His suggestion is the uptake of smart hive technology such as the ‘Purple Hive’ mentioned by Primary Industries Minister Jo Palmer during the announcement of the Beekeeping Survey Report last week. The Purple Hive system utilises a small solar-powered camera to rapidly detect and scan bees entering a hive through the door. If a pest is detected by the scanner, the door to the hive will close and an alert is sent out, minimising the risk of a further spread between physical hive detections. “That way we can have an immediate response to any potential outbreak,” Mr Bourke said.

“The management has been an industry-wide effort so far, recreational beekeepers have been helping us commercial beekeepers out by checking the sentinel hives too. “Everybody has been pitching in but we need something that provides an instant response to detection.”

Mr Bourke said the Tasmanian Beekeepers Association has committed to the purchase of more smart hive detection systems to work alongside Biosecurity Tasmania’s systems and establish a stronger defence against incursions. He has insisted on the need for more. “We need to have these protections in place as soon as possible,” he said. “If we’d had these in place in the New South Wales ports this incursion wouldn’t have happened.

“Since we didn’t, 15,000 hives have been destroyed and we’re spending millions in trying to stop the spread.”