Media Release

Protecting Australian industries from a varroa buzzkill

17 February 2014

If varroa mite established in Australia it could cost Australia’s crop industries about $70 million a year.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, today released a statement outlining the areas where research and development (R&D) could help to better prepare our industries and mitigate the risk.

“Targeting our R&D dollars at emerging risks is just as important as investing in new tools to improve productivity,” Minister Joyce said.

“The Australian bee keeping industry is the only one in the world that is free of varroa and we want to keep it that way.”

Varroa mites are parasites that live on bees and whose impact can lead to the destruction of whole colonies and hives.

“Our honey bee industry produces about $90 million worth of honey and beeswax annually and 65 per cent of our agricultural crops rely on honey bee pollination, at least in part.

“The establishment of varroa would devastate the beekeeping and cropping industries.

“Modelling by CSIRO shows that varroa could cost our crop industries about $70 million a year if it established in Australia.

“Through this statement, the government has outlined a set of priorities to guide scientists and organisations involved in honey bee, varroa mite and crop pollination research developing projects to protect our industries.”

The priorities include improving the efficiency and effectiveness of crop pollination under Australian conditions and keeping managed honey bees healthy by developing new ways to treat varroa mite.

Whilst the R&D statement underlines the need to prepare for the establishment of varroa mite in Australia, efforts are continuing to keep Australia free from the parasite.

“Our robust biosecurity system provides a high level of protection for our primary industries and environment. As an example, when importing bees to Australia, importers need to meet strict biosecurity regulations and standards,” Minister Joyce said.

“This statement is about furthering those efforts – providing guidance on priority areas for additional work, highlighting them to Australia’s scientific community and ensuring we do what we can to prepare industry in case varroa is introduced so it can continue into the future.”

The statement is available on the Department of Agriculture website.

For more information on varroa mite.

For a technical expert please contact the Department of Agriculture’s media team on 02 6272 3232.