Varroa mite Townsville update

Response activities are continuing following the detection of varroa mites on an Asian honey bee nest at the Port of Townsville in May 2019.

The Asian honey bee nest was located and destroyed on 16 May 2019 and found as a result of bee lining activities where foraging bees are tracked.

The mites were sent to the CSIRO’s laboratory in Canberra for identification to species level, with results confirming Varroa jacobsoni.

Biosecurity Queensland is continuing its heightened surveillance activities at the Townsville Port area, and further out in the Townsville local government area.

To date there have been no further detections of Asian honey bee or varroa mite.

The Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests has met to discuss this detection and determined that based on the evidence, this incident is considered technically feasible to eradicate. 

The committee is considering a response plan that has been put forward by Biosecurity Queensland, which is the lead agency responding to this incident, supported by the Australian Department of Agriculture.

Genetic testing indicates this Asian honey bee detection is not related to any previous incidents in Australia, including those present in Cairns, or subject to the current national eradication program underway in Townsville. 

In relation to the 2016 Townsville varroa mite detection, the national eradication program is on track for declaring this infestation eradicated in August 2019, providing no further Varroa mites relating to this detection are found.

The Asian honey bee is approximately 10mm long with yellow and black stripes on the abdomen.

Port and transport workers are encouraged to be on the look-out and report suspect bees that may have come in on cargo via the See. Secure. Report hotline on 1800 798 636.

The general public can report suspect Asian honey bee detections to the national Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Townsville bee keepers are asked to be especially vigilant in reporting any suspect Asian honey bee sightings and/or varroa mite detections. 

Information about bee biosecurity and photos that will help identify varroa mite and Asian honey bee are available on the Bee Aware website at beeaware.org.au or the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website.

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