Testing and building Australia’s Varroa defence

Government and industry stakeholders from across the country are taking part in one of the nation’s largest biosecurity exercises to help Australia bee prepared to manage a potential Varroa mite incursion.

Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer, Dr Kim Ritman, said as part of Exercise Bee Prepared, workshops were being held in a number of jurisdictions to test Australia’s response to an incursion.

“Varroa mite is a significant honey bee parasite in other countries around the world. It causes colonies to decline, as well as transmits viruses in bees and is one of our most unwanted biosecurity pests,” Dr Ritman said.

“Australia has over 20,000 beekeepers, the honey industry is valued at over $90 million a year and bees provide pollination services estimated to be worth $4-6 billion per year.

“We are the only continent free of Varroa destructor and to provide assurance that the measures we have in place would allow us to effectively respond to and manage a Varroa incursion, it is important that we put them to the test.

“Through the Exercise Bee Prepared workshops, tailored scenarios are being run in each state and territory to help demonstrate our preparedness to detect, contain and manage an incursion. 

“To date, over 160 government and honey bee industry representatives have been through the workshops, which have highlighted areas where we are doing well and where potential improvements can be made.

“It has been a great opportunity to share information and learn from jurisdictions and experts from the honeybee industry, to ensure Australia has the best possible chance to manage a Varroa incursion.”

The workshops are being delivered by Plant Health Australia and funded by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. They have been run in the ACT, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

The final workshops will include one in the Northern Territory in mid-September and a Commonwealth workshop at the end of October.

There are a range of biosecurity requirements, surveillance and response arrangements in place to manage the risk of Varroa mite arriving and establishing in Australia. This includes the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program, which provides early warning for bee pests and pest bees at ports around Australia.

For more information on the Exercise Bee Prepared, visit Plant Health Australia.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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