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Varroa mite detection at Port of Newcastle threatens Australia’s bee industry


Varroa mite has been detected in biosecurity surveillance hives at the Port of Newcastle, threatening the bee industry. 

Australia has been the only continent to remain free of the parasite, with previous detections in Queensland and Victoria eradicated. 

The Varroa destructor, commonly called varroa mite, spreads viruses that cripple bees’ ability to fly, gather food, or emerge from their cell to be born.

It also significantly reduces their ability to pollinate crops.

Hived bees in the US dropped by about 30 per cent and native bee populations in NZ by 90 per cent when varroa mite arrived there.(Supplied: Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry)

NSW Agricultural Minister Dugald Saunders said an emergency biosecurity zone was now in place around the Newcastle port and the contaminated hives have been contained. 

Beekeepers within 50 kilometres of the port are being ordered not to move hives or equipment in or out of that area.

“It is a really concerning situation. We’re now calling on beekeepers right across the state to help safeguard their industry,” Mr Saunders said.

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

One in three mouthfuls of food benefit from honey bee pollination, with some crops like almonds, blueberries, avocados, and apples completely dependent on pollination.

A queen bee among hundreds of bees on a hive frame.
NSW DPI have confirmed varroa mite has been detected at the Port of Newcastle. (ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

It has been reported that hived bees in the US dropped by about 30 per cent when it was found there, and native bee populations dropped by 90 per cent when it arrived in New Zealand.

Industry confident contamination contained

The Australian Honey Bee Industry Council said it was working closely with the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

“We’re really confident that it is isolated and contained to the Port of Newcastle,” acting chief executive Danny Le Feuvre said.

He said the council had staff going door to door to make sure all hives were accounted for in the Newcastle area.

“We’ll also be putting out communications in the local area for any beekeepers … who have backyard hives, or even are aware of feral hives,” Mr Le Feuvre said.

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