Monday, May 20, 2024

Beekeepers abuzz with varroa mite battle efforts

Beekeepers across NSW and the ACT are set to help in the fight against the spread of the most serious pest of honeybees in the world through a low-cost Internet of Things solution.

Two pilot programs targeting varroa mite, and co-funded to the tune of $130,000 under the Catalysing Australia’s Biosecurity (CAB) initiative, are due to begin in the coming months.

The programs come as the national management group for varroa destructor, which includes governments and industry, endorsed plans to move from an eradication response to a management approach in February.

The ACT pilot is a collaboration between the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), CSIRO, the ACT Government and University of Canberra (UC). It will use a citizen science approach to trial Vimana Tech’s BeeRight technology and use environmental DNA (eDNA) with up to 30 local backyard beekeepers/hobbyists in the ACT region.

The NSW pilot is a collaboration between DAFF, CSIRO, Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and UC. It will also use the BeeRight technology and eDNA on known hives infected with varroa mite in NSW. There will also be a citizen science component like the ACT approach.

First Assistant Secretary of Biosecurity Strategy and Reform, Bronwen Jaggers said the pilots provided a unique opportunity to test the technology and how it could best be used in urban and peri-urban areas.

“With the recent agreement on the varroa mite transition to management plan, the focus is now on slowing the spread as much as possible, and supporting beekeepers to keep their hives healthy,” Ms Jaggers said.

“The ACT pilot will help us confirm whether the region continues to be free from varroa mite and help prepare the community for future spread to the region.

“Both pilots are a practical example of the National Biosecurity Strategy in action, demonstrating the value of information exchange between the public, industry and government for early detection and response. The pilots are testing technology which could offer a relatively low-cost approach to slowing the spread of this destructive pest.

“We need community help to test this new method to see if it has the potential to detect Australian varroa. It’s a way that citizen scientists can help protect our valuable pollination services and agricultural industries.”

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