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Failed biosecurity measures lead to risk of ongoing infestation of Varroa mite and increased use of potentially dangerous pesticides

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Sue Higginson
NSW Greens MP
12 October 2022

Sentinel hives located around major ports such as Newcastle that are intended to detect invasive species have failed to stop the spread of the deadly Varroa Mite and the blame for this failure lies squarely with the Department of Primary Industries and the lack of professional and regular screening. There is a significant risk to native pollinators if the Varroa mite becomes an endemic invasive species because the use of pesticides to control the mite will have a cascade effect through the environment and native species.

NSW Greens MP Sue Higginson and spokesperson for the environment and agriculture said “The news from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) that the sentinel hives were only being checked every 6 to 8 weeks is a damning admission considering the consequences of biosecurity failures,”


“Mistakes are as serious as their consequences and the Varroa mite incursion is a multi-billion dollar problem that could cripple NSW agriculture and honey production as well as threaten native animal species while we struggle to contain or control this outbreak,”


“Minister Saunders has claimed that biosecurity is a top priority for him but this flies in the face of the evidence that the first line of defence from Varroa for over a decade prior to COVID-19 was volunteer hobby apiarists that were only conducting checks every 6 to 8 weeks. These hives should have been under surveillance from qualified DPI personnel on a frequent schedule to ensure that any pest was detected as quickly as possible,”


“It is only slightly reassuring that volunteers were removed from the frontline of the State’s biosecurity operation considering that the inspection schedule seems to have more infrequent following DPI taking charge of the sentinel hives again. Volunteers were conducting inspections every 4 weeks and were pushing for inspections to be as regular as 2 to 3 weeks. Why has DPI reduced the inspection rate to between 6 and 8 weeks?”


“If the Varroa mite were to escape the containment operation then there could be an increase in the use of pesticides to eradicate infected hives, many of these pesticides have poorly quantified flow on effects to native species and the environment,”


“The NSW Government should have been more vigilant and invested significantly more attention and resources into the operation of sentinel hives. The destruction of honey bee hives in Australia as a result of the Varroa mite threatens the $70 million honey industry and the $14.2 billion pollination sector which begs the question - why was the Government not operating our biosecurity measures properly?” Ms Higginson said.”

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Sue Higginson
NSW Greens MP
12 October 2022


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