It has been a couple of months since the last AHBIC newsletter. The call to transition the varroa response to management has meant that we have been, once again, swamped with meetings, negotiations and reviewing documents.
The decision to transition to management is incredibly disappointing for everyone in our industry but for many reasons it was no longer feasible to eradicate. It was always an ambitious task and everyone worked incredibly hard to try and achieve it.
Despite the last couple of months being all about Varroa we have been able to achieve other things in AHBIC.
Red Dwarf Honey Bee incursion in WA
The first Red Dwarf Honey Bee (RDHB) detection was in March 2023 at Dampier in Western Australia. There has been a total of 12 nests discovered to date. Euvarroa sinhai has been detected on many of the RDHB’s but has not been found on European honey bees yet. Euvarroa is a relative of Varroa destructor which is the species found at Newcastle. It is unclear if this species of varroa can survive and reproduce on European honey bees with mixed reports in peer reviewed papers. Continual surveillance by DPIRD and DAFF is being conducted to delimit the incursion and monitor European honey bees in the area.
BBO immersion tour of NZ
AHBIC was successful in applying for funding from AgriFutures capacity building program to sponsor all of our national Bee Biosecurity Officers to head over to New Zealand. The trip allowed the BBO’s to immerse themselves in all thing Varroa management.
We are very grateful to AgriFutures for supporting the trip and we have been seeing the information gained by the BBO’s starting to be disseminated to industry.
Imported Honey Fighting Fund
The fund has been receiving good support from beekeepers with a pool of money to start the testing of honey. The subcommittee will meet to decide on the specific testing protocols that will be used to ensure we can make the money stretch as far as possible without compromising the data. We have been gathering honey from shelves across the country ready for testing.
We have been working with DAFF to improve testing protocols but also discussing the potential for DWV to enter Australia through imported honey. There is some scientific work being conducted to determine if DWV can remain viable in honey.
Standards Australia and the International Standards Organisation
As previously discussed AHBIC has initiated the Australian membership of the international committee for honey standards. The Australian committee has met several times and worked through the international documents. Good progress in being made and when the committee is comfortable with final draft we will share the documents with wider industry for consultation.
AHBIC thanks Liz Barbour who travelled to international standards committee meeting in Turkey earlier this year. The information on the workings of the committee has been valuable in informing our feedback.
I attended the Northern Australia People Capacity and Responsiveness Network in Cairns earlier this month. This was a valuable roundtable that allowed me to put honey bees front and centre for biosecurity activities in the north. Despite now having Varroa we still don’t have Tropilaelaps mites which is endemic in the islands to our north. Ensuring honey bees are at the fore front of the biosecurity officers minds when designing surveillance activities is important for our industry.
Bee Deaths on Almonds
AHBIC has been worked with the Almond Board of Australia and produced a quick response form to capture the contact information of beekeepers that are impacted by bee deaths on almonds. Unfortunately, there has been reports of deaths this year which appears to be isolated to one orchard. We are working with the ABA to understand the cause of these deaths with samples being collected and sent to labs for testing.
Sugar 4 Bees
AHBIC in partnership with Sugar Australia has distributed just under 100t of sugar dust to beekeepers across the Varroa management zones. We thank Sugar Australia for their support in donating the dust to help desperate beekeepers. Unfortunately, our original agreement was for the supply of 100t which we have distributed but we continue to negotiate with Sugar Australia for further support.
AHBIC hosted our 4th Varroa webinar which had nearly 1,000 register and 500 attendees. We have produced regular Varroa updates that are posted on our website and have been regularly reviewing communications documents for many in the industry.
Once again, we have been consumed by the workload created after the decision to transition. We have been attending many meetings, several workshops in Canberra with the CCEPP group, and contributing the transition plan for industry. We have been meeting regularly with the AHBIC executive and NSWAA executive throughout the process.
Both Bianca and I have been participating as ILO’s in the Victorian response with daily IMT briefings and in the NSW response with two IMT briefings weekly. AHBIC will also be contributing to the SA Varroa Advisory Group that will meet monthly.
The Month Ahead
Meetings and discussion around the varroa response will continue this month and hopefully the transition draft plan will be completed by NSW DPI. Plant Health Australia have their AGM and members meeting in Canberra at the end of the month and the National Bee Biosecurity Steering Committee meeting mid-month. AHBIC in conjunction with CropLife Australia will be re-launching the updated Bee-Connected app on the 16th Nov in Canberra with the Federal Minister of Agriculture. The honey standards committee will continue to meet regularly and the many AHBIC subcommittees have meetings scheduled over the coming month.