As reported on ABC Rural on Friday, an Asian honey bee (Apis cerana) hive has been found in the Port of Townsville, Queensland, with scientific analysis confirming five Varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni) were present on two of the bees.
Varroa mites are very small parasites which may be found on honey bees. Although Varroa mites are primarily found on honeybee larvae and pupae, they can also be found living and feeding off adult honeybees. This may cause the adult honeybees to become weaker and could lead to the transmission of some viruses.
A check of the surrounding areas has found no further Asian honey bees or their hives and the Queensland Department of Agriculture has set up a quarantine and surveillance program within a 10km radius.
Capilano Beekeeper Services Manager, Bill Winner, along with General Manager Honey Supply, Matt Story, and Chairman, Trevor Morgan, are presently working with the Queensland Beekeepers' Association and Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC), to provide assistance with the recent Varroa discovery.
Up until this point, Australia has been the only continent in the world without a Varroa mite presence. However, we do know that in recent years there have been nine border detections of Varroa species, eight of which were intercepted and destroyed. We therefore need to maintain our vigilance in their detection and eradication – something that Capilano is naturally committed to.
While there are a number of species of Varroa mite, the species found in Townsville has been identified as the Varroa jacobsoni, which specifically attacks and decimates the Asian honey bee and not the European Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) which is the species used in Commercial Beekeeping in Australia.
That said, our honeybees are susceptible to a separate Varroa mite species, the Varroa destructor. While this species has not been detected in Australia, Capilano can confirm that it has rigorous measures in place to action in the event of an invasion, including the creation of a ‘Varroa Destructor Management Pack’, which sets out detection, identification, how Varroa destructor spreads, their life cycle and treatments available.
We will continue to work very closely with all government departments and peak bodies including the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC), to support our beekeepers and their hives. We have recently funded a proposal put together by Plant & Food Research to provide a full library of informative and instructional videos to assist beekeepers, as well as fund Biosecurity Officers in the field.
Capilano continues to conduct research, undertake study tours and review scientific literature to ensure we have sufficient answers, protocols and monitoring procedures that will give us the best, most accurate and timely actions upon an incursion of Varroa.
The early detection of Asian honey bees and varroa mites is essential to restrict the spread of these pests. The Asian honey bee is approximately 13 mm long with yellow and black stripes on the abdomen. If you know of any feral bee hives in the Townsville area or identify any Asian honey bees call Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.