Mite-y fight against Asian honey bee enters new phase

News release | 09-Jan-2020

Key points:

  • Targeted surveillance activities will ramp up to prove Townsville is free of varroa mite
  • Varroa mites could significantly damage the Australian bee industry and agricultural sector, disrupting honey production and pollination services.
  • Australia is the only inhabited continent in the world to be free of varroa mite

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Surveillance activities will ramp up in Townsville to prove the area is free of varroa mite.

The National Varroa Mite Eradication Program, led by Biosecurity Queensland, kicked into action in July 2019 following the discovery of a nest of Asian honey bee (Apis cerana) at the Port of Townsville, which were later confirmed to be carrying varroa mite (Varroa jacobsoni).

Program manager Rob Stephens said with no more Asian honey bees found, the program will now transition to Proof of Freedom phase.

“This means more targeted surveillance activities including sweep netting, aerial pheromone trapping, Rainbow bee-eater pellet sampling, bee lining and setting up feeding stations as well as industry awareness and community engagement activities,” he said.

“January is usually a time when bees are more active, especially if there is rain to promote flowering vegetation.

“So it’s very important that we identify if there are any remaining nests quickly.”

Varroa mite is a tiny parasite that could have serious consequences for the pollination of crops and honey production if it were to spread to Australia’s population of European honey bee.

Mr Stephens said community help is especially important as the Program works to prove Queensland is free of varroa mite.

“Australia is the only inhabited continent in the world to be free of varroa mite and we want to keep it that way,” he said,

“The local community has been terrific at keeping an eye out and reporting sightings of bees to us.

“We have received more than 270 calls since July when our response officially first began and we need that to continue.

“So the message remains: report unusual bees, nests or swarms to 13 25 23 immediately and we’ll follow up.

“Like our European honey bee, the Asian honey bee will forage on flowers but are smaller, not as hairy and look darker and glossier.

“Look for bees clustered into a swarm or nests in small hollows like trees, eaves, letter boxes and compost bins.”

For more information visit www.daf.qld.gov.au or to report unusual bee activity call 13 25 23.

Media contact: DAF Media, media@daf.qld.gov.au