Australia is the only continent free from the honey bee parasite varroa mite – and Tasmania’s beekeepers and biosecurity staff want to keep it that way.
The beekeeping industry has been on alert since varroa mite was detected on a vessel at the Port of Melbourne in July, prompting federal government and industry stakeholders to run a biosecurity exercise to test how prepared the country is for a potential varroa mite incursion.
Exercise Bee Prepared workshops were run around the country, with Tasmania’s event overseen by Apiary Biosecurity officer Karla Williams.
The national workshop program were delivered by Plant Health Australia and funded by the federal Agriculture and Water Resources department.
Australian Chief Plant Protection officer Dr Kim Ritman said the aim of the exercise was to each jurisdiction’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.
There are more than 20,000 beekeepers throughout Australia and the honey industry is valued at more than $90 million annually, with bees providing pollination services estimated to be worth up to $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,” she said.
“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.”
More than 160 government and honey bee industry representatives have participated in the workshops, which highlighted areas where they performed well and where improvements could be made.
“It has been a great opportunity to share information and learn from jurisdictions and experts from the honey bee industry, to ensure Australia has the best possible chance to manage a varroa incursion,” Dr Ritman said.
For information on Exercise Bee Prepared visit www.planthealthaustralia.com.au/exercise-bee-prepared/