Varroa mite detection in Port of Newcastle threatens Australian bee industry

Varroa mite has been detected in biosecurity hives in Newcastle Harbor and poses a threat to the bee industry.

Australia is the only continent to remain free of the parasite, wiping out previous detections in Queensland and Victoria.

The Varroa destructorCommonly called Varroa mite, it spreads viruses that paralyze bees’ ability to fly, gather food, or emerge from their cells to be born.

It also significantly reduces their ability to pollinate crops.

Varroa mites on honey bee pupae.
Hives in the US fell by about 30 percent and native bee populations in NZ by 90 percent when the Varroa mite arrived there.Supplied: Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said a biosecurity zone has now been established around Newcastle harbor and the infected hives have been contained.

Beekeepers within 50 kilometers of the harbor are told not to move or tamper with their beehives.

“It’s a really worrying situation. We’re now calling on beekeepers across the state to protect their industry,” Saunders said.

Mr Saunders said a Varroa mite outbreak could cost the agricultural sector $70 million a year in losses.

One in three bites of food benefits from pollination by honeybees, with some crops such as almonds, blueberries, avocados and apples relying entirely on pollination.

A queen bee among hundreds of bees on a beehive frame.
NSW DPI has confirmed that Varroa mite has been detected in Newcastle harbour. ABC Rural: Kim Honan

It has been reported that beehives in the US fell by about 30 percent when they were found there, and native bee populations by 90 percent when they arrived in New Zealand.

Australia has a National Bee Pest Surveillance Program with an early warning system to detect new attacks of exotic bee pests.

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