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Varroa mite found at Port of Townsville

News release | 06-Jul-2016

Biosecurity Queensland is conducting surveillance in the Townsville area after the exotic bee parasite varroa mite was confirmed in a feral Asian honey bee hive detected near the port.

The feral Asian honey bee hive was reported to the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in late June by local stevedores.

Varroa mites are a serious pest and a threat to the local honey bee industry. Certain species and strains can infest European honey bees, killing off hives and severely affecting honey production and pollination services.

Queensland Chief Plant Health Manager with Biosecurity Queensland Mike Ashton said CSIRO had confirmed that the mites collected were the species Varroa jacobsoni.

“Asian honey bee are the natural host of this species of varroa mite.  However, a recent report by the CSIRO has shown for the first time this species reproducing on European honey bee and it is this strain that we are most concerned about,” he said.

“This strain is known to be widespread in Papua New Guinea.

“Asian honey bee is not known to be established in Townsville and to date, no further feral Asian honey bee hives have been found in the area where this hive was located and then destroyed.

“Biosecurity Queensland is conducting surveillance within a 10 km radius around the detection, which will include surveillance of managed and feral hives, and traps set to attract bees.

“While Asian honey bees have been established in parts of Far North Queensland centred around Cairns for some years, varroa mites are not known to be present in this population.

“Biosecurity Queensland’s quarantine and surveillance program includes surveillance of managed and feral hives, and traps set to attract bees to check for the presence of varroa mite.

“Restrictions have been imposed on the movement of bee hives, bees, bee products (excluding honey), and used bee keeping equipment from the Townsville area to prevent any possible spread of the mite.

“We are keen to examine a number of managed hives in the Townsville area to ensure they are not infested with varroa mite. We are also asking the public to report feral hives so they can be sampled and destroyed to prevent any spread of the mite.”

If you know of feral bee hives in the Townsville area, or see Asian honey bees or suspect your bees have been affected, call the Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Information about bee biosecurity, hive care, and photos that will help you identify varroa mite, are available at www.beeaware.org.au

For information on Asian honey bees visit www.daf.qld.gov.au

Follow Biosecurity Queensland on Facebook and Twitter (@BiosecurityQld).

Media contact: Mark Hodder, 3087 8598