A Varroa mite parasite on the back of a honey bee (Photo: USDA-ARS/Steve Ausmus)

July 6, 2016

The varroa mite – which has been linked to collapse of bee colonies around the world – has been detected in Queensland for the first time.

Biosecurity Queensland announced on Wednesday that Varroa jacobsoni had been found in a feral Asian honey bee hive in Townville.

The hive was located close to the port and was reported to the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in late June by local dock workers.

Biosecurity Queensland is now conducting surveillance to determine if there are more hives in the Townsville area.

The Biosecurity Queensland statement said Varroa mites were a serious pest and a threat to the local honey bee industry.

Certain species and strains can infest European honey bees, killing off hives and severely affecting honey production and pollination services.

Queensland Chief Plant Health Manager Mike Ashton said the CSIRO had confirmed the mites collected were Varroa jacobsoni.

“Asian honey bees are the natural host of this species of varroa mite,” he said.

“However, a recent report by the CSIRO has shown for the first time this species reproducing on European honey bees and it is this strain that we are most concerned about.

“This strain is known to be widespread in Papua New Guinea.

“(The) Asian honey bee is not known to be established in Townsville and to date, no further feral Asian honey bee hives have been found in the area where this hive was located and then destroyed.

“Biosecurity Queensland is conducting surveillance within a 10 km radius around the detection which will include surveillance of managed and feral hives, and traps set to attract bees.

“While Asian honey bees have been established in parts of Far North Queensland centred around Cairns for some years, varroa mites are not known to be present in this population.

“Biosecurity Queensland’s quarantine and surveillance program includes surveillance of managed and feral hives, and traps set to attract bees to check for the presence of varroa mite.

“Restrictions have been imposed on the movement of bee hives, bees, bee products (excluding honey), and used bee keeping equipment from the Townsville area to prevent any possible spread of the mite.

“We are keen to examine a number of managed hives in the Townsville area to ensure they are not infested with varroa mite.

“We are also asking the public to report feral hives so they can be sampled and destroyed to prevent any spread of the mite.”

Biosecurity Queensland can be contacted on 13-25-23.

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