When fighting one of the most devastating bee pests on the planet, it’s important to have as many weapons available as possible - which is why the pollination industry is applying for permits for chemicals to control the Varroa mite.
Although Australia is currently free of Varroa destructor, experts generally accept that it will eventually reach our shores after wreaking havoc on our closest neighbours, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
An application has been submitted to the APVMA by the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC) as part of a project under the Pollination Program, a research and development strategy jointly funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) and the Australian Government.
Gerald Martin, Chairman of the Pollination R&D Advisory Committee, says every effort is being made to keep Varroa out of the country, but the industry must have measures in place to control and manage the pest if it becomes established,
“Three Varroa mite control products, Bayvarol (flumethrin), Apistan (tau-fluvalinate) and Apivar (amitraz) have been identified as effective in aiding in the control of Varroa in New Zealand and approval is being sought for use in Australia on an ‘if and when’ basis,” Mr Martin said.
Following APVMA approval, the permits would be held in ‘reserve’ for use in the event of an incursion so there can be a rapid and effective response should this invasive pest become established in Australia and threaten the pollination of horticultural crops.
An estimated 65 per cent of agricultural production in Australia relies on escaped and managed European honeybees for pollination.
Mr Martin said approvals for chemical controls formed just one part of the overall strategy to be prepared for an outbreak of Varroa.
“As an industry we are investing in biosecurity services through AQIS and the National Sentinel Hive Program is in place to help prevent the accidental migration of bees which may bring with them pests and diseases.
“And as part of the Pollination Program we are also undertaking research into non-chemical options for control of Varroa given that the experience from New Zealand is that there are already signs of chemical resistance after having Varroa for less than a decade,” Mr Martin said.
Mr Martin said it was vital that a combination of options were in place to plan and prepare for the pest reaching Australia and that we learned from the experiences of other countries where Varroa has taken hold.