BEE AWARE: Port of Townsville bolsters Varroa mite fight with Purple Hive Project
News release | 15-May-2023
Artificial intelligence will be used to monitor for the destructive bee pest Varroa destructor at the Port of Townsville following the installation of Purple Hive Project (Purple Hive) technology.
Biosecurity Queensland has joined forces with the Port of Townsville and the Purple Hive Project, an initiative by Vimana Tech, supported by Bega Group in a Queensland first to monitor for the pest which has the ability to decimate Australia’s agriculture industry.
The Purple Hive Project uses artificial intelligence to scan honey bees for Varroa destructor, which was recently found in Australia for the first time in NSW.
“The Port of Townsville has been identified as a critical partner for the Purple Hive Project as ports have been flagged as high-risk pathways for bee pests to enter Queensland,” Port of Townsville General Manager Assets and Environment Mark McNeil said.
Bees can enter Australia on vessels or in freight which can spread pests like Varroa destructor, which can kill off honey bees and in turn have a crippling effect on plants which require the pollinators to reproduce.
“Townsville was at the forefront of the fight against Varroa mite following detections of Varroa jacobsoni in 2016, 2019 and 2020,” Mr McNeil said.
“While these incursions have been officially eradicated, we continue to work alongside Biosecurity Queensland to ensure Queensland remains varroa mite free.
“Townsville is Australia’s largest sugar export port, and we also handle significant sugar volumes at Lucinda Port, so we are acutely aware of the importance of protecting the agriculture industry and its significant contribution to the region’s economy.”
Rob Stephens, program manager from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’, reiterated the importance of mitigating the risks of varroa mite coming into Queensland.
“The Varroa Mite Prevention and Preparedness Program is working closely with industry and beekeepers to make sure the mite doesn't ever get a foothold here in Queensland”.
“The program manages permitting and compliance requirements for the movement of bees and related carriers into Queensland, as well as increased surveillance to support area freedom for Queensland.”
“Queensland beekeepers are on the front line for early detection. We are asking all Queensland beekeepers to be proactive and check your hives for varroa mite.
Beekeepers can report hive checks using the Bee 123 online form, or by calling 13 25 23. Report your hive checks to our Bee 123 form. We want to hear from you, even if you don’t find any suspect mites.
Townsville’s Purple Hive Project installation comes in the lead up to World Bee Day on Saturday and is a first for Queensland, following the deployment of the Purple Hive in Victoria and one in New Zealand.
One in every three mouthfuls of food consumed in Australia is dependent on honey bee pollination. Bega Group launched their B honey brand to help support the local honey industry while teaming up with companies including Vimana Tech to develop the Purple Hive Project.
“Following the detection of Varroa destructor in NSW, embracing new technologies like the artificially intelligent Purple Hive to detect the mite in real-time has never been more critical,” Vimana Tech Chief Technology Officer Vignesh Murugan said.
“From today, the Purple Hive is now actively monitoring for Varroa destructor at the Port of Townsville in real-time,” Mr Murugan said.
“The work on the Purple Hive Project continues thanks to the investment from Bega Group’s B honey and Vimana Tech, and we couldn’t be happier for the support of the Port of Townsville and Biosecurity Queensland for proactively installing this technology.”
Fifth generation beekeeper and Purple Hive Project Advisor Ian Cane, who has worked on the Purple Hive Project since its launch, said the hive would enable Townsville to quickly detect and address any potential Varroa destructor threat.
- Varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni) have been detected in nests of feral Asian honey bees at the Port of Townsville in 2016, 2019 and 2020. The incidents have been formally declared eradicated thanks to the work of the National Varroa Mite Eradication Program.
- Port of Townsville is partnering with Biosecurity Queensland and the Purple Hive Project, an initiative led by Vimana Tech and supported by Bega Group, to install a ‘Purple Hive’ on Port land.
- The Purple Hive Project uses artificial intelligence to scan honey bees for Varroa destructor in real-time
Townsville’s Purple Hive installation comes ahead of World Bee Day on Saturday, 20 May.
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