Varroa destructor (varroa mite) attacks European honeybees (Apis mellifera). It’s thought to be one of the greatest threats to Australia’s honey and honey bee pollination plant industries.
Detection in Australia
Varroa mite was detected in sentinel hives in NSW on 22 June 2022. This was during routine surveillance by NSW Bee Biosecurity Officers at the Port of Newcastle. NSW traced the centre of the outbreak further away from the port, within the Newcastle area.
These detections have been limited to NSW and all infected sites are linked either through movement of hives or because the hives are together in the same location.
Infected premises are in the greater Newcastle area, the Hunter Valley Central Coast, and on the mid-north coast at Kramback and Wherrol Flat. There were also single properties infected near Narrabri, on the north coast near Coffs Harbour, and one near Gumble in western NSW.
A recent cluster of infected premises has been identified near Kempsey with forward tracing identifying single properties infected near Euroley and Nericon in the Riverina and Euston and Balranald near the Victorian border.
Agriculture Victoria are undertaking extensive surveillance in the area close to the state border with no mites detected in Victoria to date. Surveillance is ongoing.
In 2016, 2019 and 2020, Varroa jacobsoni was detected on recently arrived hitchhiker Asian honeybees in Townsville. Under the National Varroa Mite Eradication Program, the bees were declared eradicated in February 2021.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is leading the national response to this outbreak.
A $132 million Response Plan has been approved and aims to eradicate Varroa mite. It covers all aspects of the response, including:
- the safe destruction or decontamination of affected hives and equipment
- a surveillance and management plan for wild European honey bees
- eradication and proof of freedom activities until June 2026.
The Response Plan was endorsed through the national emergency plant pest response arrangements. Costs are shared by the Australian, state and territory governments, and affected industry parties. The NSW government contributes extra resources and funding to the eradication program.
Reimbursement for beekeepers
If you’re a registered beekeeper you may be eligible for reimbursement of losses through the NSW DPI. You must meet certain criteria. This includes that your hives and/or equipment were destroyed as part of the emergency response.
If you suspect an exotic pest or disease outbreak, report it. Even if you’re not sure.
Call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881. This will put you in touch with your state or territory’s biosecurity agency.
For signs of exotic bees and pests in imported goods, sea containers or parcels, call See. Secure. Report on 1800 798 636 or use our online form.
Follow the rules
If you live or work in a response area, check the restrictions in place.
Keep exotic dangerous pests and diseases out of Australia. Never ignore our strict biosecurity rules.
Import shipments may need to be treated and certified. Before you import, check our Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON).
NSW and VIC movement restrictions
There are 3 emergency zones in place in NSW and VIC. Different restrictions apply depending on where honey bees and hives are located. The zones include:
- 10km eradication emergency zone (red)
- 25km surveillance emergency zone (purple)
- general emergency zone (blue), which covers the remaining areas of NSW.
If you are in NSW or VIC, there are important requirements you must meet. There are restrictions on moving bees, beehives and bee keeping equipment in and out of zones in NSW and VIC. You must also report details of your hives to NSW DPI or Agriculture Victoria.
Restrictions in other states
There are restrictions on the entry of bees, beehives, bee keeping equipment and bee products into other jurisdictions from NSW.
Check state and territory restrictions:
About the pest
Varroa destructor is an external parasitic mite that attacks European honey bees and the Asian honey bee (Apis cerana). This mite is thought to be one of the greatest threats to our honey and honey bee pollination plant industries.
The mite attaches itself to the bee and feeds on them. It weakens them and kills colonies. European honey bees infested with varroa are likely to die within 3 to 4 years if left untreated. The mite also transmits honey bee viruses.
If the mite established here, we could lose most wild European honey bee nests. We would also lose managed hives that are not adapted to Varroa mite. This would significantly reduce pollination and result in estimated losses of over $70 million a year.
Varroa destructor is a distinctive-looking small mite, around 1mm in diameter. it is reddish-brown colour and can be seen with the naked eye.
Varroa destructor is a Category 2 Emergency Plant Pest (EPP) under Schedule 13 of the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD). Internal and external mites of bees are listed as number 10 in the Top 42 National Priority Plant Pests.
Australian native bees are not affected by varroa mite.
See more on the response program or varroa mite.
- Varroa mite emergency response (NSW DPI)
- Wild European Honey Bee Management Program (NSW DPI)
- Impact of outbreak of varroa mite in New Zealand (VIDEO, includes discussion on risk management)
- Biosecurity Manual for Beekeepers (Farm biosecurity)
- National Bee Pest Surveillance Program (Plant Health Australia)
- National Bee Biosecurity Program (Plant Health Australia)