Tasmanian Bee Biosecurity Officer update

This update from the Tasmanian Bee Biosecurity Officer (BBO) Karla Williams gives an overview of her main activities from November 2019 to September 2020.

Tasmanian Bee Biosecurity Officer Karla Williams

In November 2019, Karla attended the field days of the North-West and Southern branches of the Tasmanian Beekeepers Association (TBA). These were key events for providing biosecurity messages and demonstrating varroa surveillance techniques such as sugar shake and alcohol wash.

During November 2019, Karla also held three regional sessions at libraries to support beekeepers without internet access or needing assistance with computers to complete the Biosecurity for Beekeepers online course.

In January 2020, Karla attended the Tasmanian Junior Beekeepers very first Australian Meeting of Junior Beekeepers which determined entrants for the next International Meeting of Junior Beekeepers in Slovenia (postponed due to COVID-19).

Later in 2020, Karla attended beginner beekeeping course pest and disease sessions held by the Northern branch of the TBA and gave a pest and disease talk at a meeting of the Southern branch of the TBA via Zoom. She also gave a ten-minute presentation on record keeping at the TBA’s 2020 AGM.

As well as attending and presenting at beekeeping events in this period Karla:

  • responded to 5+ reports of potential varroa. Further investigation revealed all to be Braula coeca.
  • responded to two mass bee death incidents likely to be exposure to chemicals.
  • developed relevant pollination and pesticide education and awareness communications.
  • updated internal operating procedures and work instructions, prepared new response specific sampling kits, and guidelines for beekeepers in responding to suspected poison/chemical exposure events.
  • inspected hives across the state for American foulbrood (AFB), European foulbrood and other reported concerns.
  • trained new staff and volunteers in sampling for AFB (i.e. pupal smears, comb inspection, and com-vita field test kits). A new AFB notification form is now available on the DPIPWE website.
  • responded to several compliance concerns, for example: a beekeeper taking AFB impacted hives to a tip; a wax press imported under a special authority that didn’t meet entry requirements; and queen bees coming into Tasmania without health certification.
  • trained new staff and volunteers in sampling for varroa, small hive beetle and other pests as part the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program (NBPSP) and participated in a review of the NBPSP.
  • completed some packaged bee export inspections (commercial apiaries) prior to Covid-19.

Upcoming events for Tasmanian beekeepers

Exercise Bee Prepared follow up training

In 2018, Plant Health Australia facilitated an event which focused on the operations in every state and the first three days of a (theoretical) varroa mite detection in Tasmania. It aimed to identify gaps in our readiness to respond to a detection or incursion of Varroa destructor so we can better prepare. A report on the exercise was published in July 2019.

As an outcome, Biosecurity Tasmania has planned a one-day follow up exercise to be held in Hobart and Devonport in November 2020, with 20-30 industry participants per session.

The sessions will run from 10 am to 3 pm, including a short break and a lunch break.

Please email karla.williams@dpipwe.tas.gov.au to register your interest.

Online bee biosecurity course sessions

The Biosecurity for Beekeepers online course is now free to all beekeepers! The aims of the course are to:

  • assist beekeepers with how to identify pests and diseases in their hives.
  • provide up-to-date knowledge on how to manage pests and diseases.
  • share the principles of good bee biosecurity and what actions can be undertaken to minimise the impacts of pests and diseases into the future

Anyone without internet access or needing assistance with computers can attend a session with the BBO to help them access the online course.

A session is planned for the South, North and North-West regions of Tasmania, likely in October 2020.

Once a date has been set, an invite will be sent to registered beekeepers with further details.