Beekeepers: Varroa mite infestations have spread too far to eradicate

Beekeepers say there is longer any point eradication because the varroa mite has spread too far.

Beekeepers say there is longer any point eradication because the varroa mite has spread too far. Photo: Getty

Beekeepers warn a deadly parasite crippling their colonies is out of control and Australia must learn to live with the pest rather than wipe it out.

Varroa mite was first detected near the Port of Newcastle in June 2022, leading to more than 25,000 hives being destroyed over 13 months as authorities tried to halt its spread.

No country has been able to eliminate the parasite, which feeds on adult bees and their larvae, once it established itself.

Danny Le Feuvre from the Honey Bee Industry Council said the majority of his members wanted to abandon eradication attempts in favour of a management plan.

He did not think there were enough resources available to wipe out the parasite.

“There are too many detections to be able to resource and achieve eradication,” he told AAP on Friday.

“We believe the sheer size and the resourcing required to achieve eradication is beyond scope at the moment.”

Neil Bingley from the NSW Apiarists’ Association said beekeepers would have to learn to live with varroa mite.

“We didn’t want the mite, but it’s inevitable now,” he said.

The shift followed the discovery of varroa mite north of Coffs Harbour, as well as detections in the Kempsey, Riverina and Sunraysia regions of NSW, close to the Victorian border.

Steve Fuller from the Crop Pollination Association said there had been too many detections in recent months.

“It’s getting to the point that it’s daily and up to 10 places at a time,” he said.

“Every country has lived with varroa, it means a lot more work for beekeepers, but it’s something that we’ve got to accept.”

Some beekeepers are still banking on eliminating the mite.

Lindsay Bourke from the Tasmanian Beekeepers Association said the pest should not be allowed to spread beyond NSW.

“They’re jumping the gun,” he said of groups calling for eradication to be abandoned.

“I’m definitely in favour of continuing to attempt eradication.”

NSW Nationals leader Dugald Saunders described the situation as “out of control” and called on the state government to abandon its eradication plan.

“With infected premises popping up rapidly and in widespread parts of the state, the government can’t afford to keep waiting and hoping that something is going to get better, because it won’t,” he said.

The NSW agriculture minister said the varroa mite response was a national plan agreed to by state and federal governments in consultation with industry partners.

The national management group would need to decide on a change in approach.


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