Suspect varroa mite in New South Wales

28 February 2017

On 28 December 2016 an amateur beekeeper in Queensland submitted a photograph found on social media to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline of a European honey bee with what looked like suspect varroa mite. Later on the 28 December 2016 following pursuit by the amateur beekeeper, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) received a report containing the photographs and took measures to respond. These exotic mites are parasites of European honey bees and are one of Australia’s top 40 priority plant pests.

As soon as the report was received NSW sought advice from experts in NSW, Queensland and industry who examined the photographs and agreed that the suspect mite was bigger than the normal size of varroa mite. Experts subsequently confirmed that the image is of the bee scutellum (a part of the bee’s anatomy) rather than a varroa mite.

To rule out the potential presence of varroa mite, NSW commenced further response activities as follows:

  • Authorised bee inspectors trained in bee investigative work were dispatched on Friday 30 December 2016, with field samples taken for diagnosis. All samples were negative for varroa mites.
  • Floral sweeps were conducted, with no varroa mites detected.
  • Chemical (Bayvarol) strips and sticky mat traps were placed around all hives within 2.5 km of the garden in which the photographs were taken. All the sticky traps and mats were examined and no varroa mites were detected.

The photographs were taken by a resident of Rutherford, NSW and submitted to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline by the amateur beekeeper in Queensland who become concerned after seeing the photographs. The amateur beekeeper that responded and submitted the photographs is commended for their actions. The suspected incident was a valuable learning exercise in the notification of suspected exotic plant pests that has resulted in improvements to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline being identified and addressed.

On 16 January 2017, NSW proved that this was not a case of varroa mite and announced that the investigation had ceased.

Any unusual plant pest should be reported immediately to the relevant state or territory agriculture agency through the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline (1800 084 881). Early reporting increases the chance of effective control and eradication.