NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) tracing has uncovered two new Varroa mite infestations in beehives recently moved from Kempsey to Tamworth in the New England region of NSW.
NSW DPI chief plant protection officer, Shane Hetherington, said the response has also uncovered a new infested premises at Balranald.
"These new infested premises all had surveillance because of hive movement declarations showing movements from Kempsey emergency zones," Dr Hetherington said.
"We know this news will be disappointing and worrying to beekeepers in the New England region who have been free from Varroa until now, but we are confident we have discovered the infestation quickly, and our surveillance will give us a good picture of any other spread.
"Our teams are rapidly following all movements from the Kempsey zones and we ask the community to continue working with us as we track down the source of this cluster which is behind so many of these new infested premises."
This brings the total number of infested premises to 236.
NSW DPI has immediately established emergency eradication and emergency surveillance zones around the sites, under a new biosecurity emergency order published today (Sunday, September 3).
The surveillance data in all regions is key to understanding where the mite is, and this is something all beekeepers can assist with.
"We strongly encourage all beekeepers to continue doing their timely alcohol washes and report that data to us," he said.
"Between them and NSW DPI, over 130 000 tests have been undertaken in the past year which is phenomenal, and it is testing like this which originally highlighted the Kempsey situation, so its importance cannot be underestimated."
The national body of government and industry experts advising the Varroa mite eradication program has backed a plan to safely move bee hives located in recently established eradication (red) zones in Southern New South Wales.
Relocation of southern hives
Mr Hetherington said southern NSW is currently hosting the largest concentration of managed European honeybee hives in Australia to provide pollination services for almond orchards.
"Recent tracing of beehives moved from Varroa mite emergency eradication (red) zones in the Kempsey region led to the identification of four infested premises at Euston, Balranald, Euroley and Nericon," he said.
"The creation of eradication (red) and surveillance (purple) zones centred on those sites would normally prevent the further movement of all hives in those areas.
"However, floral resources are rapidly declining as the flowering period finishes and that creates an escalating biosecurity risk, as bees will naturally start to look for other food sources potentially leading to bee swarming or robbing behaviour.
"Due to the sheer numbers of hives in the region, it's therefore imperative that we quickly move hives out of the area to more plentiful food sources or we risk the likelihood of the bees travelling further afield and potentially spreading the Varroa mite."
The following movement management strategy will apply to Apiarists within immediate vicinity of the four identified sites:
Beekeepers with hives within a 0-3 kilometre radius of one of the four infested premises at Balranald, Euroley, Euston and Nericon:
- Hives will be subject to euthanasia and will be eligible for Owner Reimbursement Costs, even if there is a change in the response plan,
- Must not move bees, hives or apiary equipment out of or within the Varroa mite eradication emergency zone under this Division, and must:
- Permit an authorised officer to insert miticide strips into all hives and sticky mats into a representative sample of hives for surveillance, diagnosis and control of Varroa mite.
Beekeepers with hives within a 3 - 6 kilometre radius of one of the four infested premises at Balranald, Euroley, Euston and Nericon, may:
- Move those hives anywhere within the eradication (red) zone they are currently in, provided the destination is not closer than 3km to the infested premises.
- Move those hives into one of the surveillance (purple) zones at Euroley or Nericon, provided miticide strips have been placed in the hives for at least 48 hours prior to the movement.
- Beekeepers may move the hives once within the eradication (red) zone and once into the Euroley or Nericon surveillance (purple) zone, and hives must not be moved from that destination.
Beekeepers with hives within a 6 - 10 kilometre radius of one of the four infested premises at Balranald, Euroley, Euston and Nericon, may:
- Move those hives to any point that is within the greater NSW General Emergency (Blue) Zone, provided miticide strips are placed in the hives on arrival at the destination and remain in the hives for at least 42 days.
- Further movement of those hives will be subject to surveillance requirements.
"We acknowledge this is a unique situation that seeks to balance risk and protect livelihoods and industries," Dr. Hetherington added.
"We thank our state's beekeepers for their continued perseverance, understanding and cooperation."
This program change is included in a new emergency order gazetted today, which also updates the total number of infested premises to 233 following the detection of Varroa mite in hives near Boggabri and at Hat Head.
Both the Boggabri and Hat Head sites are directly linked to the Kempsey cluster through the movement of hives and proximity to infested premises.
Hive locations and alcohol wash results must be reported to NSW DPI by filling out the online forms at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au or by calling the Varroa Emergency Response Hotline on 1800 084 881.
- For more information visit, www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/emergencies/biosecurity/current-situation/varroa-mite-emergencyquot;" www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/emergencies/biosecurity/current-situation/varroa-mite-emergencyamp;source=gmail&ust=1693791053233000&usg=AOvVaw1i7BZp9SYF1awEOoHuhUxT" www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/emergencies/biosecurity/current-situation/varroa-mite-emergency.