An old saying goes, a little knowledge is a good thing. When it comes to stopping biosecurity threats to Australia it’s a great thing.
An amateur beekeeper was recently called by a local business after a shipping crate from China was discovered with a swarm of bees in it. The beekeeper retrieved the bees from the crate and took them home to his own hives.
He then spoke to his beekeeping mentor about them. Alarm bells rang immediately for the mentor as he had previous experience of exotic pests from working with Agriculture Victoria during the 2018 Varroa mite detection at the Port of Melbourne. He advised his friend to call Agriculture Victoria’s Apiary Team to report the swarm as a possible exotic pest or disease.
There are a number of honeybee species that are exotic to Australia that are a threat to the healthy populations of European honeybees and could also cause damage to Australian native species of pollinators. Swarms of exotic bees can bring mites or other pests and diseases that could damage our healthy colonies.
Bee Biosecurity Officer Ally Driessen said the man, who called late in the day was given instructions over the telephone on how to keep the bees contained and isolated so the team could come and take a sample for testing the next day.
“Luckily this beekeeper is being mentored by an experienced beekeeper who we had worked with and he understood the possible ramifications of the bees having Varroa mite on them.”
“Members of our team were able to give immediate advice over the phone to stop any further spread of the possibly diseased bees before we could attend in person.”
Two apiary team members were onsite early next morning and took a sample which was then sent to the AgriBio Centre at Bundoora for testing.
“Fortunately, on this occasion our AgriBio research scientists were quickly able to confirm Varroa mite wasn’t present.”
“We were also able to confirm where the box had entered Victoria and that it was free of bees when it arrived here.”
“The swarm was thought to have entered the box through a gap when it was resealed,” she said.
“This is a great example of how important it is for beekeepers to know what diseases and conditions to be aware of when looking at their hives, and when they think something isn’t right to call us.”
She said the Exotic Pest Plant Hotline is the best way for anyone to report any unusual bee or plant pests.
If you see something you think isn’t quite right call the Exotic Pest Plant Hotline on 1800 084 881 or you can report in online at https://forms.bio.vic.gov.au/public-reporting