Eyes in the apiary: external mite surveillance

Current world events have highlighted the level of management required for preventative biosecurity and, even more so, the difficulty of tracing and eradication once an incursion breaches the border. They have also illustrated the importance of an individual’s actions. When it comes to bee biosecurity, all beekeepers need to be vigilant to support the early detection of exotic bee pests and diseases.

A national early warning system

The National Bee Pest Surveillance Program is an early warning system which aims to detect incursions of exotic bee and bee pests into Australia. There are dedicated apiary officers and volunteers around the country working on this program, helping to protect all beekeepers.

What you can do

The other side of bee biosecurity defences is you! We encourage all beekeepers to undertake specific external mite surveillance. In fact, all beekeepers are required to conduct biannual surveillance to comply with the Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice.

Surveillance methods

Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

Varroa mites can feed and hide between the segments on the honey bee abdomen. Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

Mites are commonly found on the underside of the abdomen, which is why many beekeepers never them, nor recognise the signs. However, there are simple ways to undertake external mite surveillance without upturning thousands of bees to look at their undersides.

The following reliable methods are used by beekeepers around the world to detect mite populations in their hives:

  • sugar shaking
  • alcohol washing
  • drone uncapping

These methods can also be used by you to inspect your hives for the early detection of varroa mite.

You can find some easy to follow instructions on for each of these surveillance tools here.

As you prepare your hive for winter, turn thought to action and play your part in keeping Australia varroa free.

Any unusual plant pest or disease should be reported immediately to the relevant state or territory agriculture agency through the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline (1800 084 881).

This article was written by WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Bee Biosecurity Officer James Sheehan.