Varroa mite

Alert

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has movement restrictions for bee risk items following the detection of varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni) on Asian honey bees in Townsville. To move restricted items, please refer to the Movement Control Order and read about moving bees and hives. Report sightings of feral hives, Asian honey bees or hives showing symptoms in Townsville to 13 25 23.

There are 2 species of varroa mite, the Varroa destructor and the Varroa jacobsoni. Native to Asia, varroa mites are a pinhead-sized parasite of honey bees.

Varroa destructor affects both Asian honeybee and European honeybee. Now found in much of Asia, Europe, the USA, South America and New Zealand, Varroa destructor has caused the collapse and death of European honey bee colonies wherever it is present. Adult bees are weakened by mites sucking on them, and new bees are born with deformities. Varroa jacobsoni has a wide distribution on Asian honey bee (Apis cerana) throughout Asia but does not affect European honeybee.

Varroa mite numbers build up over time, eventually killing honey bee nests and hives if chemical mite killers are not applied. Bee colony death affects honey production and pollination of food crops.

The Varroa jacobsoni has been detected in Townsville, North Queensland, and Biosecurity Queensland is implementing a surveillance program to prevent any spread of the mite. The mites’ most likely entry path into Australia was on a feral swarm of Asian honey bees arriving at the port.

The varroa mite is prohibited matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Varroa destructor and Varroa jacobsoni

Other names

Varroa, bee mite

Description

  • Curved, pinhead-sized mite.
  • Adult females are reddish-brown, flattened, oval-shaped, with body 1-1.7mm long and 1.5-1.99mm wide.
  • Adult males are yellowish, spherical, with body 0.75-0.98mm long and 0.70-0.88mm wide.
  • May be seen on thorax or nestled into abdominal folds of adult bees.
  • Obligate parasites of honey bees and do not survive for long away from host.

Habitat

  • Live wherever bee colonies are found.
  • Asian honey bees (Apis cerana) have adapted to withstand varroa mite infestation and are now a natural host.

Distribution in Queensland

  • Varroa jacobsoni has been detected in Townsville, Queensland. Under eradication.
  • Varroa could spread across the country by movement of bees.

Affected animals

  • Honey bees

Impacts

Environmental

  • Debilitates and eventually kills untreated bee colonies, reducing managed and feral honey bee populations.

Economic

  • Potential to severely affect honey production.
  • Potential to severely affect wide range of pollination-reliant food crops and crops that support primary food production.

Control

  • Early detection is essential to ensure any Varroa mites entering Australia are contained.
  • The Australian Government monitors cargo ships entering Australian ports for bees and other unwanted insect pests.
  • Plant Health Australia and Biosecurity Queensland coordinates the National Sentinel Hive Program in Queensland. Sentinel bee hives are placed near ports and monitored for mites. Bees detected on wharves are killed and sampled to ensure they do not carry Varroa or other unwanted pests.
  • Beekeepers participate in the Queensland Beekeeper Mite Surveillance Project. This is managed by Biosecurity Queensland in collaboration with the Queensland Beekeeper's Association and regional bee clubs. Samples are collected each year from hives throughout Queensland and tested for exotic mites.
  • All beekeepers should monitor their hives and immediately report unexpected hive deaths, deformed bees, bees with parasites, poor brood patterns and dead brood to Biosecurity Queensland.
  • Techniques for mite sampling using the alcohol wash method can be obtained by contacting a Biosecurity Queensland State Apiary Officer.

Legal requirements

  • Varroa mite is prohibited matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014 (the Act).
  • The Act requires that all sightings be reported to Biosecurity Queensland without delay. A person that has sighted the pest must also ensure that they do not take any action that may exacerbate the risk of the pest spreading.
  • By law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risk of Varroa mite entering and establishing itself in Queensland.

More information

Last updated
21 July 2016