An Asian honey bee (Apis cerana) hive has been found at the port in Townsville, Queensland, with scientific analysis of the bees confirming that two varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni) were present on two of the bees.
The national Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests, which provides technical and scientific advice in response to exotic plant pest and disease outbreaks, has been convened to discuss required response activities for Varroa jacobsoni due to the potential economic impact of an outbreak.
A check of the surrounding area has found no further Asian honey bees or their hives and traps, and sentinel hives that are already in place around the port as part of the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program have not collected any exotic bees or mite pests over the past two years.
“Australia has well-established arrangements in place for responding to exotic pests such as varroa. This is a nationally significant pest that will see all efforts put in place to prevent it from establishing in Australia,” said AUSVEG National Manager – Scientific Affairs Dr Jessica Lye.
“Professional and amateur bee keepers need to be vigilant in inspecting their hives for signs of varroa mite and other exotic pests. It is vital that any suspected sightings of these pests are reported to state or territory’s department of agriculture or biosecurity early so that all measures can be taken to ensure they are dealt with in a timely and effective manner.”
The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is leading the response and is implementing a quarantine and surveillance program within a 10km radius of the Townsville port.
“The local community and bee keepers also have a critical role in containing and reporting bee hives and feral bee populations within a 10km area of the Townsville port,” said Australian Honey Bee Industry Council Executive Director Trevor Weatherhead.
“It is also important that people working at seaports and around imported goods be vigilant to pests and animals that are unusual, and may have come in with imported cargo.”
“The Australian honey bee industry has been proactive and taken significant preparedness steps to safeguard Australia from the risk of varroa mite, including raising their EPPR levy, expanding the Sentinel Hive scheme and employing honey bee biosecurity officers more recently,” said Dr Lye.
“It is currently believed that these forms of varroa mites do not readily transfer between host species – that is, if the mite is found on Asian honey bees, it does not readily move to European honey bees,” said Mr Weatherhead.
“While there are no expected domestic or international trade issues at this time, it is important that all industry stakeholders work together to ensure rigorous surveillance of varroa is maintained.”