Next phase in Varroa mite response turns to wild European honey bees

The next stage in the fight to keep NSW Varroa mite free starts next week, with the commencement of destruction of wild European honey bees in the red eradication zone of Jerry’s Plains, in the Hunter region of NSW.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) Chief Plant Protection Officer Dr Satendra Kumar said ensuring wild European honey bees are removed from the red eradication zones is the next significant step as part of the national Varroa mite response plan.

“Wild European honey bees, which are the same species as honeybees kept in managed hives, build their nests in tree hollows and other enclosed spaces,” said Dr Kumar.

“Removing these bees from the environment of red zones is necessary to reduce any chance of the Varroa mite parasite existing undetected within wild hives.”

Dr Kumar said the baiting program has been developed to include strict guidelines to protect and ensure the safety of all people, animals, livestock and the local environment.

“NSW DPI has been authorised by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to use fipronil to remove wild European honey bees.

“The bait stations are designed to exclude other animals and insects, and to prevent contamination of soil and water.

“Bait stations will remain in place for up to 12 months, but only in active use with insecticide for very short periods of time, to a maximum of 3 hours each session.

“During active use, bait stations will be monitored by trained staff, to minimise the risk of off-target impacts. Trials to date have shown zero feeding in stations by off target species.”

Dr Kumar said bait stations are placed at least 2 kms away from the edges of the red eradication emergency zones to prevent attracting honeybees from outside zones.

“To reduce the risk of bees in the purple zone being affected by this baiting program, there will be a minimum 2km buffer area between bait stations and from the edge of the purple surveillance emergency zone, to reduce the risk of European honey bees from outside the eradication zone interacting with the bait stations.”

Beekeepers in red eradication emergency zones in the Hunter, Nana Glen and Narrabri areas whose hives have been euthanised continue to be eligible for compensation.

“We have heard from beekeepers working with our response teams, that the application process for reimbursement is a smooth process and is working well,” Dr Kumar said.

“I strongly encourage any beekeepers in those zones to make sure they’re a registered beekeeper in NSW.

“In line with the program guidelines set by the NSW Rural Assistance Authority, only registered beekeepers will be eligible for reimbursement.

“We don’t want beekeepers in the red eradication zone to miss out.”

Planning and preparation of the baiting program has been conducted by NSW DPI in consultation with the Environment Protection Authority and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

NSW DPI has also worked closely with industry representatives of the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, NSW Apiarists’ Association, Amateur Beekeepers Australia and the Australian Native Bee Association.

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