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Posted by: Bear Jun 30 2018, 08:19 AM
Varroa mite detected at Port of Melbourne on a ship from United States.

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Varroa mites on honey bee pupae. Supplied: Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The potentially devastating varroa mite, which could wipe out the Australian beekeeping industry, has been detected in Victoria.

A bee colony infested with the varroa mite was detected on Wednesday at the Port of Melbourne on a ship from the United States.

A colony was found in a wooden crate and tests revealed some bees were infested with varroa mite, but the exact variety of the varroa mite is yet to be determined.

Australia is one of the last remaining countries in the world to be free of the blood-sucking varroa destructor, which has already devastated bee colonies in New Zealand, the United States, and Europe.

Varroa destructor is the breed of mite that affects European honey bees, which agriculture industries around the world rely on for pollination.

However, north Queensland has had recent incursions of the less dangerous varroa jacobsoni, which only infects Asian honey bees.

Agriculture Victoria chief health plant officer Nigel Ainsworth said the master of the ship reported seeing dead bees on the ship, which was immediately investigated by Agriculture Victoria and the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) upon docking at the Port of Melbourne.

Mr Ainsworth said the colony had been destroyed and Agriculture Victoria was "confident" the situation was contained to the single colony.

He said three other wooden crates on the ship from Texas had also been secured.

"We haven't had final confirmation as it's a fairly specialised area to formally ID them, but unfortunately we're fairly sure that it's going to be varroa destructor," Mr Ainsworth said.

"[That is] the bad varroa mite, given that it came from the US where that's the form of varroa that is prevalent."

Mr Ainsworth said cold weather conditions meant the bees were lethargic and "pretty unlikely" to have flown beyond the ship.

Laboratory tests of the established sentinel hives at the port returned negative readings for varroa.

As a precaution, more sentinel hives have been installed and floral sweep netting has been undertaken within the port precinct and the adjacent parkland.

Biosecurity officers are also inspecting gardens within a 2-kilometre radius of the port.

"If it was to become established in Australia it would be very serious," Mr Ainsworth said.

Potentially devastating for honey bee industry

Australian Honey Bee Industry Council chairman Lindsay Bourke said the industry was "very concerned" about the detection.

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I hope that they can contain this pest before it spreads.

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