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With over 47,937 registered beekeepers who own approximately 855,330 hives, keeping Australia’s honey bee population healthy is no mean feat.
‘Bee Pest Blitz’ is a new annual month-long national campaign to increase awareness of the importance of bee biosecurity and encourage beekeepers to inspect their hives for high priority exotic pests.
“The annual campaign calls on all Australian honey bee beekeepers to inspect their hives for the presence or absence of high priority exotic pests,” says Dr Jenny Shanks, Manager, Bee Biosecurity at Plant Health Australia (PHA).
“Surveillance is key to the timely detection of new pests and provides the best chance for industries and governments to respond before pests become established and widespread,” she said.
Under the Honey Bee Industry Code of Practice beekeepers are required to inspect their hives twice per year, using a method that looks for the presence of arthropod pests, including Varroa spp. (varroa) and Tropilaelaps spp. (tropilaelaps) mites. By participating in ‘Bee Pest Blitz’ beekeepers will fulfil one of their annual bee biosecurity obligations and requirements.
“Autumn is an ideal time to conduct hive inspections and alcohol washing is the most effective method to check for varroa mites,” said Dr Shanks.
Alcohol washing is a quick and effective method to detect the presence of external mites and monitoring the level of mites within a colony.
This method can remove over 90% (with multiple rinses) of external varroa mites present on adult honey bees. Alcohol washing can also detect tropilaelaps mites.
Very little equipment is required to conduct alcohol washing and it can be easily performed during routine hive inspections. Varroa mite feed and reproduce on honey bee brood, which means the nurse bees that take care of the brood cluster, commonly have varroa on them. Alcohol washing targets the central brood cluster where you are most likely to find nurse bees. The key to the effectiveness of this method is the length of time shaking or swirling the solution and the number of washes conducted, to achieve the highest volume of mite recovery.
Surveillance reporting will be handled at a jurisdictional level and all personal information will be kept confidential.
“Improving honey bee health and maintaining healthy bee populations into the future, is essential for the production of Australian honey and those agricultural sectors reliant on honey bee pollination services,” said Dr Shanks.
‘Bee Pest Blitz’ is a Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) funded initiative, led by PHA, and supported by the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council and all state and territory governments.
Visit beepestblitz.com.au from 1 April for free surveillance resources on general safety and biosecurity considerations before you start; materials needed to conduct an alcohol wash; how to perform an alcohol wash, and how to submit your results.