New South Wales (NSW) officials said they were confident they contained the varroa mite in a Senate inquiry into Australia’s biosecurity readiness.
It comes after previous evidence from NSW beekeeper chiefs who are concerned about the failure to eradicate the deadly parasite.
Dr. John Tracy of the Department of Primary Industries told the survey that almost 14,000 urticaria have been euthanized so far and more than 75% of urticaria in the eradication zone have been destroyed.
“Based on the information we have, we are confident that we have successfully limited the intrusion and are continuing to work from the edge of those areas while euthanizing hives,” he said.
Division head Scott Hansen told the investigation he was confident the appropriate areas had been contained.
“After nearly 100,000 tests across hives, there are still no positives outside of currently identified eradication zones,” he said.
It is still unknown how the Varroa destructa tick reached Australia.
Department officials say genetic sequencing shows it was just one occurrence, but the origin may never be determined.
Permits have been granted to move 333,000 hives since the permit system was put in place in June when ticks were first spotted around Newcastle, the study said.
A third of these hives were moved for pollination.
The study said feeding wild bees with the insecticide fipronil, which began in October, was a “key step”.
Tracy said the program “showed very promising results not only in terms of bee attractiveness in these areas, but also in terms of dead bees and the effects of fipronil feeding.”
Bait has been placed around the infected facility in Jerry’s Plains, west of Newcastle, with plans to expand to other eradication areas in the state and recruit additional staff.
The president of the New South Wales Beekeepers Association has provided evidence that he believes the eradication program will not work because of wild hives.
Steve Fuller said programs to eradicate varroa have been compromised by wild hives and people illegally moving hives.
When asked if the government’s eradication program would be successful, he replied, “Personally… I would say no.”
“I doubt we’ll ever be able to track all of these wild hives,” Fuller said Wednesday.
He told the inquiry that the penalties for beekeepers are serious but must be enforced.
Beekeepers who illegally move hives can be fined $1.1 million for individuals and $2.2 million for businesses.
The investigation said there were 31 notices of infringement, but no fines were issued for the illegal movement of hives.
Sheila Stokes, head of amateur beekeepers Australia, believes the authorities have no intention of prosecuting beekeepers doing the wrong thing.
“I’m not convinced DPI[NSW Primary Industries Authority]compliance is following up on all of that,” she told the inquiry.
Department head Hansen said authorities would “follow through” those who broke the rules.
The investigation found that the eradication program was delayed due to a lack of key personnel to inspect hives.
“Definitely the lack of trained personnel is slowing things down,” Stokes said.
Hansen said the department had the workforce to function effectively in the face of a large-scale intrusion.
Although hive movement remains stalled in New South Wales, some registered commercial beekeepers are able to move their hives in low-risk areas.
Hort Innovation, a research and development corporation, has also contacted us that they are looking for technology to detect and control varroa mite.
This includes lasers, artificial intelligence and gas sensors to limit the spread of Valois, some of which are already in use abroad.