Industry clamps as Asian honey bee nest found at port

Savannah Meacham |

Restrictions have been placed on beekeepers who have hives near the Port of Brisbane.
Restrictions have been placed on beekeepers who have hives near the Port of Brisbane.

An invasive honey bee species has been found at a busy Queensland port, sparking further restrictions on keepers and anxiety among the industry.

An Asian honey bee nest was discovered on a surveillance hive at the Port of Brisbane, the Department of Agriculture revealed on Tuesday.

The species is native to southeast Asia and can carry disease, pests such as the varroa mite and cause feral infestations by competing with local honey bees.

The nest has been destroyed and so far no presence of the varroa jacobsoni – a mite endemic to the Asian species – has been confirmed. 

Samples have been sent for testing for parasitic mites and exotic viruses.

A movement control order is in place to prevent any potential varroa mite spread through the more than 3000 known hives in a 10km radius of the Port of Brisbane.

This means beekeepers who have or had hives in the area in the last 90 days must not move them or their products and equipment.

Australian Honey Bee Industry Council chief executive Danny Le Feuvre told AAP it was fortunate the hive was detected at the port early to prevent any potential spread in the state.

“At this stage we don’t think there are any viruses present on this incursion, hopefully, it is looking good and if it is just one colony we can eradicate it,” he said.

The latest incursion comes just weeks after a varroa jacobsoni mite was detected in a surveillance hive at the Brisbane port.

Mr Le Feuvre said it does not look like the two incidents were linked or was the latest hive discovery connected to previous incursions of Asian honey bees at the port or in the state’s far north.

There have been about 12 incursions of bee pests in Australia over the past decade from Asian honey bees to the varroa mites.

With the varroa destructor running rampant in NSW, the varroa jacobsoni detection in Queensland and a red dwarf honey bee incursion in Western Australia, beekeepers are being pushed to the limit.

“The industry is weary and it’s been a long couple of years and having three responses working at the same time, it does stretch resources,” Mr Le Feuvre said.

“Three incursions create a level of complexity and stress for beekeepers.”