The NSW pollination industry's future hangs in the balance after Varroa mite detections in the Riverina and Sunraysia regions last week.
With the NSW Department of Primary Industries reporting as many 300,000 hives currently fulfilling almond pollination duties in those areas, the detections could not have come at a worse time for apiarists.
This includes tens of thousands of hives inside the corresponding eradication zones.
The NSW DPI has confirmed the most recent detection at Balranald can be traced to the Kempsey cluster - identified a fortnight ago - and brings the total number of infested properties to 222.
The detections at Euroley, Euston and Nericon, also had connections to Kemspey and were discovered during urgent NSW DPI surveillance activities.
The NSW DPI said the latest infestation had been detected on the border with Victoria. Chief plant protection officer Shane Hetherington said the four detections were a testament to the systems in place for hive movements.
"We are very grateful to the majority of bee keepers doing the right thing with their movement permits, which allows us to quickly identify links to infestations and conduct surveillance to uncover any mites which may have moved," he said.
When the Varroa mite detection was made at Kempsey, the source of which is yet to be confirmed, there were concerns among the state's apiarists that, due to the detection's remoteness to established eradication zones, containment may no longer be viable.
However, NSW DPI acting chief plant protection officer Chris Anderson said containment protocols would continue.
"It's not really a matter for NSW DPI and the (national oversight) committee to justify the current strategy," he said.
"That committee is the consultative committee on emergency plant pests, and it consists of 16 industry parties plus the state and federal governments.
"Every time that committee meets, it asks two questions based on the data that's presented to it.
"One is, is it continuing to be technically feasible and can we continue to actually do it? And the second question is, is it cost beneficial if we go down that path?
"At the most recent meeting of the consultative committee, it was agreed that it remains technically feasible to eradicate.
"There will be another meeting of that committee at the end of the week, and they will ask those questions again."
Almond Australia board member Tim Jackson said this season's pollination was close to completion and the industry was lucky in that respect, but he has fears for the future.
"It is not only infested hives, but those not infested that need to move to feed the bees," he said.
Other orchardists elsewhere are concerned about hive availability and the potentital flow-on for yields.
Ian Robson, Mount View Orchard, Batlow, has 33 hectares of apples that will flower in about three weeks.
"It's a bit of an unkown, because we've never not had bees," he said, not knowing what affect this might have on the orchard's yields.
Fiona Hall, Orange, has 77ha of apples and cherries, which will start flowering as soon as late September.
She, too, relies on bringing in "a lot of hives" for pollination.
Ms Hall also has a packing shed for the cherries which relies on volume from as many as 20 other growers, all of whom could also be affected.
And next week, she and other producers will head to Hong Kong for Asia Fruit Logistica, Asia's largest exhibition for fresh fruit and vegetable marketing, where Australian growers discuss volume of supply for the coming season.
Hence, like many growers, she keenly awaits the DPI's updates later this week.
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