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No immediate threat to WA honey bees from Townsville varroa

WAFarmers Beekeeping Section would like to reassure the state’s agricultural industries that the presence of Varroa jacobsoni (V. jacobsoni) found in the comb of an Asian honey bee (Apis cerana) nest in Townsville last month is, at present, not a threat to the Western Australian apiary industry.

Further, it should be acknowledged that the V. jacobsoni on A. cerana in Townsville is not the same strain that has been found on the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) in Papua New Guinea, which is not able to reproduce on the A. cerana. This means that only way the Papua New Guinean strain of V. jacobsoni could arrive in Australia is on A. mellifera, not A. cerana.

Therefore, there is no immediate threat of V. jacobsoni presenting on A. mellifera in Australia in the short term.

Following surveillance of the Townsville Asian honey bee nest and surrounding areas, and the delivery of expert advice, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council has stated that V. jacobsoni is only a threat to A. cerana at present, and that the mite will not reproduce on A. mellifera in the short term in Australia.

Though prolonged exposure to A. mellifera could eventually result in V. jacobsoni reproducing on the A. mellifera population in addition to the current A. cerana population, WAFarmers Beekeeping Section wishes to assure the industry that every effort is being taken to identify and destroy diseased nests and A. cerana to prevent this possible infestation from occurring.

“Surveillance work looking for more Apis cerana in the Townsville area has increased by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and current efforts are underway to despatch volunteer beekeepers to assist the Department with the surveillance work already underway,” WAFarmers Beekeeping Section President Leilani Leyland said.

“While some may see the destruction of A. cerana as a cruel practice, the only way to find V. jacobsoni and prevent a potential spread to A. mellifera is to destroy the mite at its source in Australia.”

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