Expected but also dreaded, the Varroa mite that has decimated hives overseas has been detected in Australia. It’s not the first time this has happened, with an outbreak in the port of Melbourne in 2018 that was able to be eradicated.
However, that case was kept containted to the ship; this is the first time the mite has reached the mainland. Unfortunately, no country has ever successfully eradicated the pest at this point, but the industry has rallied together and is throwing all their resources at the outbreak, with the aim to eradicate.
At least 13 cases have now been detected so far around the port of Newcastle, with Queensland, Victoria and South Australia announcing a temporary ban on all bees, hives and honey products entering their territories from New South Wales.
At this stage, Warral Maldon understands the NSW Department of Primary Industries and our own industry peak bodies are doing their job, working to contain and eradicate this exotic pest – and it’s important to note it’s not declared endemic in Australia.
If a government body does declare an endemic, then we shift to contain and manage, with individual businesses having a much larger role to play. We of course have our own biosecurity plans in place, ready to go.
Even in the best-case scenario from here, the mite has come at the worst time for Australia’s pollination season, starting in August with all the prep work currently in full swing. For crops like almonds that are 100% reliant on bees to pollinate, and that already need almost all the hives across the eastern seaboard to meet their targets, the news that hundreds of hives need to be destroyed is terrible news, not to mention heartbreaking for the keepers themselves having to kill their livestock.
If it turns out that the mite is here to stay and we have to live in a ‘new normal’ as our counterparts overseas have had to do, it will be a sad time for beekeeping in Australia. We’ll leave behind the ‘good old days’ and mark the start of a new and slightly more challenging life as a beekeeper, especially with the added ongoing stress, time and cost of Varroa treatments and increased pollination demand and prices.
Lindsay is honoured to be a board member on the Victorian Apiarist Association (VAA) and is currently serving as the VAA delegate on the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC). In this role, he is receiving daily updates on the situation from those on the front line.
We recommend all beekeepers keep a keen eye out for the mite, and we’ll be doing the same for our hives down here in Victoria.
Stay in touch, we’ll keep you updated.