Mite species harmful to bee industry detected at port

Savannah Meacham |

Biosecurity measures have been activated after a varroa mite was detected at a port in Queensland.
Biosecurity measures have been activated after a varroa mite was detected at a port in Queensland.

An invasive species has been detected at a Queensland port, sparking anxiety among beekeepers.

Biosecurity measures have been activated after a single mite – identified as varroa jacobsoni – was found in a surveillance beehive at the Port of Brisbane during a routine inspection.

The hives are placed at ports as the first point of detection for invasive species that threaten bees.

The mite that has been detected is not the varroa destructor species that has devastated hives across NSW.

“Any new incursion of varroa mites is concerning,” Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said.

The single mite’s discovery has prompted authorities to quickly activate a movement control order within a 10km radius of the port.

“It is vital that beekeepers abide by the control order restrictions and follow the advice of Biosecurity Queensland,” Mr Furner said.

The mite’s detection has sparked further anxiety among beekeepers following the devastating impact of varroa destructor mites across NSW hives in 2022.

A bee on a flower
A movement control order is in place for beekeepers within a 10km radius of the Port of Brisbane. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

“It’s just another blow for an industry that’s really struggling,” the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council’s Danny Le Feuvre told AAP.

“There’s a high level of anxiety right across Australia, particularly around varroa destructor, and just having another incursion of jacobsoni just adds to that level of uncertainty within the industry.”

Tests are under way in Brisbane to determine if the mite is carrying bee exotic viruses or pests.

Biosecurity Queensland is trying to identify the potential source of the detected mite and the likelihood of spread.

Mr Le Feuvre said it was likely the mite was spread via a ship to the port.

The varroa jacobsoni is endemic to Asian bees which are usually found in Cairns but are continuing to move south, increasing the risk of the mite.

No Asian honey bee colonies have been located in southeast Queensland.

However, varroa jacobsoni has recently been able to switch to European bees in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

“It’s not well known to survive and breed and sustain on European honey bees,” Mr Le Feuvre said.

If the species could survive on local European honey bees, it would be another blow to the industry after the varroa destructor outbreak.

It is not the first time varroa jacobsoni has been detected in Australia, with an infestation eradicated in Townsville between 2016 and 2020.

Under the control order activated by Queensland authorities, keepers in a 10km radius of the port must not move bees, hives, equipment or products to prevent any potential spread.

Movement restrictions apply to beekeepers who have hives in that area or have had them in the 10km radius in the past 90 days.

Keepers must also notify Biosecurity Queensland of any hive movements in or out of that area or any bees bought or sold in the past 90 days.

They are also urged to use an alcohol wash method to monitor their hives and report any unexpected changes to their bees.

AAP