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.
Two main areas of infestation have been identified covering the Sydney basin, greater Newcastle area, the Hunter Valley and Central Coast region, as well as around Kempsey on the mid-north coast. These locations make up the newly established Management Zones for varroa mite.
While varroa mite is continuing to spread in NSW, there have been no detections outside of NSW in other states or territories and no new incursions into Australia. The NSW DPI maintains an interactive heat map showing the current distribution/spread of varroa mite which can be found on the NSW DPI website.
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.
On 19 September 2023, the National Management Group (NMG) – the peak decision-making body for the national varroa mite emergency response – made a decision that eradication of varroa mite was no longer achievable and to shift the focus of the response from eradication to transitioning to management activities.
The aim of the transition to management program is to increase resilience and capacity to manage varroa mite within the Australian honey bee industry and thereby minimise the ongoing impacts of varroa mite naturalisation on the bee industry and pollination reliant industries.
The NMG met on 9 February 2024 and endorsed the National Response Plan V4 incorporating the transition to management.
The scope of the transition to management activities is to:
- ensure an orderly stand-down of emergency response operational activities in NSW and Victoria
- slow the spread of Varroa destructor
- build industry resilience to the pest
- provide management options including Integrated Pest Management (IPM) recommendations and chemical control options, and
- support pollination security.
The Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests (CCEPP, the technical advisory committee) will continue to meet to oversee the transition to management activities.
The NSW DPI, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC) and other impacted industry groups have been communicating with beekeepers and businesses relying on pollination services currently impacted by the response program regarding all changes to requirements.
Varroa mite remains a key threat to Australia’s honey and honey bee pollination plant industries, and it is important that government and industry continue to work together to manage this pest.
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 movement restrictions
As a result of the transition to management, a new Varroa mite Emergency Order is now in place.
Under the order, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) has established 2 zones to help manage varroa mite, a Suppression Zone, and Management Zones.
If you are in NSW, there are important requirements you must meet depending on whether you are in the Suppression or Management Zone. There are restrictions on moving bees, beehives and bee keeping equipment in and out of these zones. You must also report details of your hives to NSW DPI.
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)