Biosecurity Practices

Hi Forum!

I’m Frey and keep my precious colonies on the mid east coast of Australia.
Like many of you, I’m fascinated by the world of bees and am super excited to use this space to share and enhance our beekeeping knowledge :slight_smile:

With the recent varroa mite incursion and talk of Foot and Mouth Disease, the importance of biosecurity is at the forefront of many conversations. While we all probably know the importance of biosecurity, I’d love to open up this discussion with you guys :slight_smile:

In Australia beekeepers follow the Honey Bee Biosecurity Code of Practice ( 2016 ):
Some of the common biosecurity measures in NSW to help safe guard our bees include:

  • Inspections
  • Keeping records of inspection
  • Doing a Sugar Shake Test
  • Not feeding bees honey

I’d love to know, what biosecurity techniques have you implemented in your apiary? Which ones have you had success with? What techniques help you to maintain it?

Looking forward to learning any little tricks you may use to safe guard our bees



Hi there, Frey. Welcome to the Flow forum! :blush:

OK, I am sure that Bianca has warned you about my wicked sense of humour… So you “Come from a land down under, where women glow and men plunder?” I love that song, and I love Marmite, so I bet I would adore Vegemite too. Anyhow, forgive me for my playful tendencies. Now down to serious stuff.

I am in the US, hobby beekeeper, but I try to be very professional in my methods. Been keeping bees for well over 30 years, in the UK and now in the USA.

To answer your bullet points, yes I do all of these, with the caveat that I will feed a hive back its own honey, but never honey from a different site and never commercial honey.

For the sugar shake, I am a bit more stringent than suggested in the US. I do the test once per month on average. If I find more than 3 mites per 100 bees, I treat for Varroa. I treat routinely in spring and autumn, even if the counts are low. I also have an oxalic acid vaporizer and use the “accelerated mite drop” method that is common in the UK. You can search the forum for info I have posted on that previously, if you are interested. I find it to be a lot more sensitive than the sugar shake.

Otherwise, I would just say never be complacent about varroa or other pests. Always watch out and intervene early. It is better to be too cautious than not cautious enough, within reason. My personal feeling is that Australia will not be able to beat Varroa, but it will learn how to live with it successfully. It really isn’t a big deal once you have the right habits.



It is well worth promoting the online training developed by Plant Health Australia for beekeepers. See below

Biosecurity for Beekeepers – provides advice on keeping honey bees healthy using industry best practice. This course supports the Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice and is one way to meet the training requirement of the Code. (Please note: this course is on a different site to the other BOLT courses.)

This course is free for all beekeepers based in Australia ($40 for international enrolments). Once you are on the login page for the Biosecurity for Beekeepers course, there are a few simple steps to enrol, and then you will be able to access and complete the course. If you need more help, a step by step guide to get started is available in the Biosecurity for Beekeepers fact sheet.


He Adam,
Thank you so much for letting us know about Plant Health Australia course. Looks like an excellent resources. I’m all enrolled and ready to go - can’t wait to dive in and learn over the weekend!
Thanks again :slight_smile:


Bianca has me excited to have you on the Forum - rightfully so! Your playful tendencies are always welcome :slight_smile:
So glad you have extensive varroa experience - we’ll sure be picking your brain!
How often do you find more than3 mites per shake/ treat per year?

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Hi Adam

thanks for letting us know about the BfB. i jumped on, registered did the first course and now have my Certificate


Two to four times, but with oxalic acid sponges, I have much more control. Australia needs to use Randy Oliver’s research with the Argentinians to make everything easier for all of you. You can Google Randy Oliver of Scientific Beekeeping. He keeps bees in California - not too different from your climate. He has had some recent health challenges, but he has made a huge contribution to Varroa management in the USA


Oh that’s great Dawn! Yes, Randy Oliver is fantastic… he did a virtual talk a few weeks ago and we learnt so much! There’s so much to know! Do you have barrier systems in your apiary Dawn?

As in hive entrance physical barriers? No, I don’t. I think the research on those is pretty thin, and once varroa is attached, it often goes into the folds of the bee’s abdomen and it is difficult to brush off. Of course it might help, but I think that oxalic and formic acids are more effective, if you look at the impact on sugar shake mite counts etc

Ah gotcha!
I was thinking more barriers between hives to limit pest and disease spread…

Doesn’t work. Varroa don’t have wings, and they don’t crawl from hive to hive, they hitch-hike. I believe Tom Seeley and David Peck have done some research on this. Sometimes Varroa will jump off onto a flower and wait for another bee. So if they jump off onto a good nectar source, they can get a ride to an uninfested hive. There is no way to prevent that.

Additionally all hives rob. Yes, even your nice well-behaved girls can be voracious robbers. So who do they rob? The go for the low hanging fruit, which means a hive weakened by Varroa or other pests/dieases. As they rob the Varroa-infested hive, they pick up a passenger or two, and then their home is infested.

I truly believe that there is no way to prevent Varroa infestation. You can just deal with it and mostly control it. It is a learning curve. I remember the fear in the UK about 35 years ago when it first started to be detected. Now it is a fact of life, and the bee industry continues. Australia will adapt too.


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