Beekeepers in flood-affected areas have been granted special permission for the movement of honeybees and hives as a result of potential flooding as an east coast low impacts the NSW Government's response to Varroa mite detections.
NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI), Acting Chief Plant Protection Officer, Chris Anderson, said a group permit has been issued today allowing the movement of honeybees and hives to a higher location on the same premises but only if that premises is in a flood watch area.
The new group permit comes as Varroa mite has been detected at a further four premises today.
"While we are not concerned about Varroa mite spreading through flood waters, the concern is that the adverse weather will impact our ability to access some locations where hives are if they are in flood-affected areas," Mr Anderson said.
"Field crews will continue surveillance work in safer locations until the threat passes and we will continue to euthanise the hives and secure them so the risk is taken care off. The actual disposal can happen later.
"The situation is incredibly difficult as the NSW Government aims to eradicate varroa mite in NSW, while again potentially dealing with devastating floodwaters.
"Flood waters will not create any significant increased risk, however we are permitting beekeepers to move honeybees away from flood waters so as not to put additional stress on emergency resources at this time."
If the honeybees and hives cannot be relocated to a safe location within the same premises because the entire premises is at risk of flooding, beekeepers who are in affected areas may move their hives to a higher location but only within the emergency zone that they are currently in.
A beekeeper in a flood watch area must not transport honeybees or hives out of or through another emergency zone at any time. After the hives have been moved under this Permit, they cannot be moved back to the original location.
Four additional infested premises have been detected at Somersby, Tamago and Mayfield East. All infested premises identified so far are epidemiologically linked to earlier cases, which has resulted in a slightly enlarged emergency zone.
"As the NSW Government is continuing to be assisted by the apiary industry, Local Land Services, NSW Police, Rural Fire Service and the wider community as part of the mammoth effort to arrest the spread of the threat, all people who have acquired honeybees (including queen bees, nucleus hives and hives with honeybees) from within an emergency zone, especially the Newcastle area, are being urged to report them using the form on our website to help ensure business continuity for the bee industry," Mr Anderson said.
"Community reporting will hopefully help us facilitate and free up the movement of honeybees in the rest of NSW, especially around almond pollination."
In addition, eradication and destruction plans continue to be assessed and evolve, to determine the best way to eradicate the mite.
Unfortunately, it is necessary to euthanise honeybee colonies in the eradication zones and destroy internal hive equipment such as brood and honey frames.
The State Control Centre has completed a risk assessment on options to decontaminate external equipment such as hive boxes, pallets and straps as well as metal ware, so they can be retained by beekeepers.
The response plan has been updated so equipment will only be destroyed when a risk assessment deems it necessary.
Throughout the remainder of NSW, no beehives or honeybees may be moved.
More information is available from NSW DPI: www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/varroa
Online form: Report honeybee acquisition
Current flood warnings that may impact on the emergency zones can be sourced at http://www.bom.gov.au/
If you are not in a flood watch affected area you must not move honeybees or hives; significant penalties may apply under the Biosecurity Act 2015 if you do.
Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 (9am to 5pm, 7 days a week).
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