FATHER and son beekeepers from NSW have each been placed on 12-month adjourned undertakings with special conditions to pay a total of $5000 to the Court Fund for bringing diseased bees and incorrectly marked beehives into Victoria.
The two men, who appeared in Robinvale Magistrates' Court on December 17, pleaded guilty to several offences under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994.
The father pleaded guilty to causing, permitting or allowing diseased livestock or livestock products to be brought into Victoria, while the son pleaded guilty to exposing hives infected with disease and being a registered beekeeper who possessed hives not marked or banded with his registered brand.
The court heard that in July 2018, the father, who is 74 years-old, signed a certificate declaring that hives he intended to bring into Victoria for almond pollination activities were free of the bee disease, American Foulbrood (AFB).
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Once in Victoria, the hives were inspected by Agriculture Victoria authorised officers, who determined that of the 396 hives inspected, 84 were showing symptoms of AFB.
Of the 84 hives, 26 were classed as 'dead-out', meaning the disease was so far advanced that there were no live bees left in the hive.
The hives had also been left exposed by the beekeeper's 46 year-old son, also from NSW, allowing healthy bees from other colonies to access the diseased materials.
Diseased and dead-out hives create targets for 'robber bees', whereby bees from neighbouring healthy hives can 'rob' honey from the weak hives and in doing so, can carry AFB spores back to their own hives, spreading the disease to other hives.
Many of the hives were also marked with inaccurate brands or were not branded at all.
Branding is a legislative requirement in all Australian states and territories to ensure traceability in the event of a disease outbreak especially exotic bee pests such as Varroa.
Agriculture Victoria senior apiary officer Joe Riordan said all beekeepers were responsible for complying with the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 to assist with maintaining biosecurity and controlling the spread of bee diseases.
"Interstate beekeepers bringing hives into Victoria must ensure that their hives are free of AFB prior to transportation and should be aware that their hives may be checked by Victorian apiary officers once here," he said.
"If you suspect that you have AFB in your hives, you must notify an apiary officer without delay and take immediate steps to minimise the risk of spread of AFB to healthy hives."
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