Varroa in Newcastle

Let’s hope this can be stopped :frowning_face:

I will hope very hard! At least you can benefit from the trials and errors we’ve made in fighting these bastages here in the US & Europe :crossed_fingers::crossed_fingers:

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Hi Jack, I’m with you. It needs to be stopped before the start of spring.


From what I am hearing varroa has now been found in multiple hives in multiple locations in that area. It looks as if the varroa in the sentinel hive may have gotten there from hives in the area already infected rather than it being the first contact- which is a worry. :cry:

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Oh no, such bad news. :disappointed::-1::-1::-1::-1:

Hey everyone. Wow, scary times in Aus. I have hope we can contain and prevent this from establishing. It’s been heartening to see DPI’s response and efforts, lovely words from beekeepers around the world giving hope, and understanding and commitment from beekeepers in Newcastle ready to sacrifice their bees and livelihoods for the rest of the hive (AU), like a true honey bee colony.

Below is from Flow:


Following the recent detection of Varroa mite at the port of Newcastle, an emergency DPI biosecurity order is in place throughout New South Wales prohibiting the movement of bees.

People in NSW also must not “tamper, disturb or interfere with bees” (with exemptions for undertaking mite surveillance actions). Further directives are in place within 50km of the port of Newcastle, including notifying the DPI of the location of managed and feral honeybee colonies.

We’ve got more info available here: Varroa detected at Newcastle port, movement of bees prohibited in NSW – Flow Hive AU

To assist the DPI in managing incidents like this, if you haven’t already registered your hive (or if your registration has lapsed) please make sure you register or renew here.

Our hearts go out to all of the beekeepers who are being adversely affected at this time… Just as each bee acts for the good of the entire colony, right now it’s necessary for all of us as individual beekeepers to do our part in preventing the extremely destructive Varroa mite from becoming established on our continent!


According to the article Jack, Australia has been able to contain/eliminate spread of the varroa mite in a couple other areas of your country…quite a feat…as varroa historically in Canada ( a country almost 3 times the size of Australia) spread across the country within a decade. In Canada this still occurred with the most austere government restrictions in place…closing of the Canada/USA border to bee importations (1988) and elimination of interprovincial beehive movement.

Fast forward 34 years and Canadian beekeepers have adapted to the ubiquitous varroa pest situation…a painful process for many for 2 reasons:

  1. Government restrictions on bee imports caused extensive damage to the Canadian beekeeping industry…many beekeepers claim that the damage done by these government restrictions was by far worse than the varroa mite damage itself. Most beekeepers in my area went bankrupt…

  2. There wasn’t a clear treatment protocol for the beekeepers to use at that time. Synthetic miticides recommended by agricultural departments ended up contaminating honey/hive equipment as an example.

But as Eva says:

This statement is true and in reality should make the Australian varroa management much easier if and when varroa becomes established permanently. In the meantime, it would be prudent to read some of the previous posts on the Flowhive forum on this subject.

So what has been successful for varroa control in my and several forum members beekeeping operations? It appears that application of oxalic acid to the beehive at specific times of the year has had success over the long term. And it’s simple (something that can be prepared in the kitchen) and cheap.

And there are other ways of controlling varroa mite populations within beehives.

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That is what I am thinking about. What our government in its unparalleled wisdom is going to introduce to destroy our beekeeping industry?

It is interesting. In USSR, the late early '70s were a bit murky in terms of protocols. It was a good understanding that chemicals and bee products must be separated. But still - dark ages. Phenothiazine delivered through the smoker (good luck with proper dosage and personal safety), etc. By mid-'80s fully developed protocols, starting from individual hive treatment and trough to the regional level quarantine measures based on the level of apiary infestation. Moreover, it was a complex of measures working together, with a good explanation of what can be achieved by each step.

When the time will come, and if government will not do something terrible, we will dust off the extended-release method described In the reference book “Diseases and parasites of honey bees” by Grobov, Smirnov and Popov published in 1987. It is easier than the one from, however undoubtfully less exciting :slight_smile:

Canada is 1.3 times the land area of Australia so the challenges are probably not too dissimilar. It’s helpful that Australia has eradicated varroa mite before, most lately when it was detected at Townsville.

It’s likely that hives won’t be allowed to leave NSW for the foreseeable future.

Great points re looking at history and learning from other countries (@Eva). Thanks for the link @Doug1.

My understanding of varroa is that the bigger impact is from the viruses it transmits, such as deformed wing, which Australia doesn’t have. I wonder if this detection of varroa has any viruses.

The effect of the varroa is at least triple:

  1. General weakening of bees from mite feeding mainly on brood. Bees become smaller and lighter. Their lives 1.5-2 times shorter. Hypopharyngeal glands are less developed which leads to reduced ability to feed the brood and invert sugars. Productivity of queens and their lifespan goes down.

  2. The above also leads to lesser resistance to diseases. Mites also help to spread them.

  3. Economical impact because of the both above. Less productivity, extra work and equipment. Loss of colonies that are unable to provide themselves with food for winter/dearth period even if fed with sugar. Those with organic status may forget about it unless they are going to use the only option available to them - heat treatment.

All in all, DWV is just a cherry on the cake. By the way, it could be here already. Imported with those mites.


Does the Australian organic standard not allow oxalic acid, formic acid, or hop acids? There are also cultural controls, VSH breeding, etc…


I was looking into the wrong document - NSW Prime Fact 171, which is more draconian than National Standard for Organic and Bio‐Dynamic Produce

"All inputs are of natural origin

The product is free from man-made chemical contaminants."

The standard allows it:

“1.23.14 For pest and disease control or hive disinfecting, only the following products may be used:
caustic soda lactic, oxalic, acetic acid. formic acid sulphur etheric oils Bacillus thuringiensis heat (flame, hot water) wax or paraffin dipping”

All good then :slightly_smiling_face: They will be struggling just a bit more from the inability to use acaricides anywhere in their production cycle including input.

Not sure what “cultural controls” means, but in relation to VHS, any breeding programme is the work of generation and more. Australia prohibits the import of bees and we cannot bultup on someones previous work.


I wonder if any countries have had effective results with varroa-resistant queen breeding programs?

I may be wrong but as I understand it- the key differences between previous varroa incursions and the current one is that previous ones were found on single colonies of Asian apis cerana bees from container ships in ports or similar with varroa jacobsani- not varroa destructor?

This outbreak is of varroa destructor- is in established apis mellifera colonies and has been found now in multiple hives in multiple locations. Those locations are adjacent large national parks that contain many feral/wild honeybee colonies The origin source is as yet unknown. This outbreak looks pretty bad right now.

Another concern for Australia should varroa become endemic is that in most environments here our bees don’t have a broodless period- making varroa treatments harder as I understand it?

Still praying the current outbreak can be contained and varroa utterly destroyed.

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Dpi just released a new alert showing that the number is sites identified has spread further up towards Taree:

Taree being 170 k’s from Newcastle is a bit of a worry, with a LOT of bush between the 2 locations.

I still remember a bloke somewhere in S. America on Youtube saying that he copes well with Varroa, but really struggles with hive beetles. That’s some kind of consolation for me, because I manage hive beetles well.

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Currently, the farthest point from Newcastle on the map is close to Nerong, about 65 km as the crow flies. At its natural rate of spread, varroa would need 1.5-3 years to get there. Moving materials would speed up things of course.

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It’s a bit like Covid- USA, Europe, etc had to deal with widespread cases before there was much knowledge about it- let alone a vaccine- whilst Australia was lucky that Covid didn’t spread much until we already had access to vaccines. Same with Varroa- at least we have the benefit of all the knowledge and treatments gained abroad where they have had to deal with it for decades. There are new breeds of bee coming out with hygienic behavior that cope with varroa a lot better than other bees.

But don’t forget that in New Zealand varroa wiped out 90% of all beehives when it arrived. I don’t think hive beetles ever caused such destruction to honey bees anywhere?

In Australia feral hives do the majority of pollination and losing them could cause real problems in agriculture. There’s no way to treat feral hive for varroa as far as I can tell.

I still just pray they/we are able to stamp it out…


Hi Jack, apparently native stingless bees are not affected by Varroa. I wouldn’t be concerned about feral honeybee hives getting wiped out, as long as Australian native pollinators are not affected.

In reality, feral honeybee hives are not suited to the Australian environment. They rob Australian fauna of valuable nesting sites.

I also pray that we stamp it out, however I’m mentally prepared, just in case we can’t.

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