The beekeeping industry is taking advantage of "peace time” to work out how to deal with a deadly pest.
It’s not a matter of if, but when, and beekeepers are making every effort to be ready for varroa mites.
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in Orange hosted an emergency simulation exercise recently for 50 industry representatives, tackling a hypothetical outbreak.
“Biosecurity emergencies are complex and this exercise gives participants the opportunity to test our strategies on how we could deal with an incursion of this pest,” said DPI Plant Biosecurity Prevention and Preparedness manager Chris Anderson.
Bees, as well as producing honey, play a vital role in the pollination of many food crops.
NSW is the largest beekeeping state in Australia, accounting for 40 to 45 per cent of the national honey crop.
Varroa mites infest honey bees in every major beekeeping area of the world, except Australia.
“The mites are tiny reddish brown external parasites of honey bees with eight legs. They are flat and about 1.1 millimetres long and 1.7 millimetres across,” Dr Anderson said.
“They mainly feed and reproduce on larvae and pupae in the brood.
“Mites also feed on adult bees, transmitting viruses, weakening the colony and resulting in death of the hive.”
DPI plant biosecurity director Satendra Kumar said the industry needed to be on the front foot “in peace time”.
“We’re running a simulation for what if we find varroa mite in a beehive here, what would be the steps taken to contain and destroy them?” Mr Kumar said.
If mites were detected, quarantine zones of up to 25 kilometres would be established and affected hives would be destroyed.
Representatives from DPI, Local Land Services, Plant Health Australia and the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources worked with amateur and commercial beekeepers took part in the simulation event.
Narrandera beekeeper David Mumford said outbreak would mean pesticide use.
“It would cost me a lot more to manage my hives, and the overall headache of having a pest in the hive that I don’t need,” he said.
- Call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.