Strategies to battle Varroa continue to build 04 Dec 2012

The recent discovery of Asian honey bees infected with the Varroa mite at a Sydney port highlights the importance of pollination industries being prepared to combat this potentially devastating pest.

Australia is one of the last countries free of Varroa, which has decimated bee populations across the world and affected the production of crops and pastures which rely on them for pollination services.

While the latest threat has been removed, a Management Committee continues to work on strengthening Australia’s response to any future incursions through the implementation of a honeybee and pollination continuity strategy should Varroa become established in Australia.

A meeting recently in Melbourne included representatives of Plant Health Australia, state and federal agriculture departments, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, CSIRO and pollination reliant industries.

Chair of the Pollination R&D Advisory Committee, Gerald Martin, says it’s very reassuring that the bees were discovered on the ship and the industry thanks biosecurity officers for the swift action taken and a job well done.

“We need to be vigilant to stop the arrival of Varroa for as long as possible. However, we also need to ensure there are arrangements in place to minimise the effects on the honey bee industry and pollination reliant crops as much as possible once it does get here.

“It’s essential for the honey bee industry, growers of pollination reliant crops and governments to prepare for, and respond quickly and efficiently to, any incursion and establishment of Varroa in Australia.

“This is being done through the Management Committee, and includes developing management and movement restrictions that could be put in place in the event of a Varroa incursion, to control the spread of Varroa and minimise the disruption it might cause,” Mr Martin said.

The Management Committee is also developing a communications plan to help potentially affected industries prepare for the possible incursion of Varroa; progressing the provisional registration of key chemicals for the treatment of Varroa; coordinating research, development and extension activities between industry and government; and helping to strengthen the capacity of the honey bee industry, pollination reliant industries and government agencies through workshops, educational resources and other communication channels.

Plant Health Australia is responsible for the progression of the strategy, with the next meeting of the Management Committee scheduled for April 2013.