A harbourside home fit for a queen bee

The National Bee Pest Surveillance Program is an early warning system to detect new incursions of exotic bee pests and pest bees.

Victoria’s most important beehives need to be strong and healthy to play their part as our first line of defence against exotic bee pests and disease.

Agriculture Victoria Bee Biosecurity Officer Ally Driessen says there are 20 sentinel hives at four Victorian ports – Melbourne, Geelong, Hastings and Portland.

“Our sentinel hives are monitored every six weeks as part of a national program aimed at providing an early alert system to pests such as Varroa mite entering Australia.

She said as part of our bee husbandry, hives are checked and if required re-queened. The queen bee is vital to the hive and it’s important that she is healthy and productive.

Ally says if a new queen bee is required, they are sourced from a variety of breeders around Victoria.

“If a pest was to enter Australia, ports are one of the most likely places with bees arriving on ships. Having hives at these sites helps us know very early on and hopefully stop them spreading,” she said.

She says as well as the sentinel hives the Honeybee Pest Warrior program was mobilising more than 600 beekeepers who live within a five-kilometre radius of ports.

“There is a whole community of beekeepers who live close to ports and are very aware of the health of their hives, they know when something isn’t right and we have engaged them to be our eyes and ears as well.

“When there was an incursion of Varroa mite in Victoria in 2018 they were some of the first people we visited to help us confirm what we were dealing with and they helped spread key information to beekeepers across the state,” she said.

As part of the Honeybee Pest Warrior program beekeepers are asked to complete a sugar shake and a drone uncapping, which is a key tool in helping review the health of a beehive.

“Recording negative results are just as important as positive detections, as they help us to prove ongoing freedom of exotic bee pests in Victoria.”

Agriculture Victoria plays a role supporting the adoption of the Australian Honeybee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice by Victorian beekeepers. Beekeeping as a hobby has seen a massive growth in recent years and its important new people to the industry understand their legal obligations and what they need to do to have healthy and productive hives.

“All beekeepers have a part to play in ensuring Australia remains free of exotic pests and diseases.”

To find out more about beekeeping visit Agriculture Victoria.