TOWNSVILLE, AAP – Queensland authorities are confident a second eradication program of varroa mites at the Port of Townsville has eliminated the parasite from Australia again.
Despite a previous 2016 eradication program, two Asian honey bee nests were found in 2019 to have varroa mites within them, by Biosecurity Queensland.
Authorities have just 48 hours to detect, quarantine and isolate a nest if they’re found to be ridden with mites.
With subsequent surveillance programs and a determined response, Biosecuirty Queensland are certain they’ve wiped out the mites, which pose as dangerous incursions to the state’s bee populations.
Varroa mites are known to bury themselves into the comb of bee nests, attaching themselves to new bee populations and “suck the life” out of them as they grow, Jo Martin from the Queensland Beekeepers Association (QBA) says.
“What you start to see is a dramatic decline in the production number of new babies being generated, and eventually the colony actually dies out,” she told AAP.
“If we did experience a varroa mite incursion here in Australia and a subsequent outbreak we would expect in the first few years at least two thirds decline in the number of colonies.
“We’re very, very confident that they have eradicated the pest well and truly from the area but like we say, it’s not an if it’s going to happen again, it’s a when.”
As state secretary for QBA, she says the threat of the mites can cripple an industry imperative to the success of agriculture and horticulture across Australia.
In Queensland, the bee industry contributes $2.4 billion annually to the economy, while providing $14.2 billion nationally.
The state’s commercial bee farms are mainly found in the southern Downs region and the Great Dividing Range, but stretch as far as Ayr in north Queensland.
But while the QBA are confident commercial entities and authorities are across it, concern now lies with casual beekeepers.
Ms Martin believes with an uptake in backyard beekeeping since the pandemic began, there are those who are not so sweet to the threat of pests and transmissible disease.
“It’s not just those high risk ports, but it’s the beekeepers that are within the adjacent areas that may not be as up to date as possible on their pest and disease knowledge and awareness,” she said.
“If they’re not completing those regular checks or their alcohol washes to detect for varroa mites particularly, they might miss that.
“All that we need is one bee with one mite on the back of it that could decimate this industry.