Despite the concerns expressed by Queensland’s beekeepers regarding the possible restrictions imposed due to the recent varroa mite infestation in the port of Townsville, Biosecurity Queensland reassures that the outbreak can be eliminated and there are no plans to expand the 10-kilometer control zone around the port. There have been no detections of the parasites since the discovery of two mites in an Asian honeybee hive last week.

“Based on our understanding of the movements of the Asian honey bee and based on how long we believe the hive was there, we believe 10 kilometres is sufficient to cover the area the bees could have moved in that time,” says Ashley Bunce, director of the varroa mite response from Biosecurity Queensland. “Should that change in the future, then of course we’ll need to re-assess the situation.”

ABC reports that Bunce met with 70 beekeepers at a briefing in Townsville and told them that they have nothing to worry about. Australian Honeybee Industry Council executive director Trevor Weatherhead and others say they are satisfied with how authorities handled the problem.

varroa mite

Beekeper. Credit: Pixabay/BusinessHelper

However, some people are still frustrated and believe that abandoning the national eradication program, which involved eradicating Apis cerana or Asian honey bee, exposed the beekeeping industry to this varroa mite outbreak.  According to Robert Dewar, the president of the Queensland Beekeepers’ Association, they tried their best to continue the program but there were not enough funds as other states decided killing off the Asian honey bee is not practical.

Dewar asserts that the Asian honey bee population is not that widespread across Australia. The bee species only resides in Cairns so eradicating them would not cause a huge impact.

Still, Bunce says that reintroducing the eradication program is not possible. Bunce adds that response to this outbreak should primarily focus on the parasites, not on the unaffected bees.