Honey trap: imported queen bees bring risks and rewards with them

September 27, 2013

From:  Sydney Morning Herald

John Thistleton

The first queen bees to arrive in Australia for seven years are expected to bring significant benefits and risks to the bee industry.

Ten queens are awaiting clearance from Canada, which has varroa mite, pictured below, a blood-sucking parasite in all major honey-harvesting countries except Australia, and which is rated as one of the nation’s greatest biosecurity threats.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said introducing new bee genetics will improve production of hives and build resistance against  pests and diseases.

Assistant secretary of the animal division Andrew Cupit said the bees would be taken from Sydney Airport to Eastern Creek’s quarantine facility for testing to ensure they’re  clean.

Importing animals is risky, as a national poultry syndicate found in July when ordered to destroy 4000 rare chickens.

They had spent $500,000 importing the chicks from Britain, when one tested positive for salmonella, tragically ending years of preparatory work to restock Australia’s poultry breeds.

Importing queen bees from the US was suspended in 2006 because it could not be found whether their honey bees contained genes from the Africanised honey bee, Apis mellifera scutellata, and its hybrids.

Imports from all sources was suspended in 2008 amid concerns about the international spread of colony collapse disorder.

If no evidence of parasites is detected, the imported queens –  owned by a commercial NSW bee keeper – will be isolated in a new cage with Australian escort bees for 14 days.

All imported escort bees will remain in the original cage, be killed and then examined internally and externally by an entomologist for mites, including varroa.

At the end of 14 days, the Australian escort bees will be killed and examined for mites as well.

Cages and escort material will be incinerated.

The imported queens will be introduced into a nucleus colony sourced from a resident hive at Eastern Creek.

The nucleus colony will include a frame of comb containing young larvae. About 10 days  after the introduction of the imported queen, that frame will be removed and all larvae/pupae will be examined for varroa and other mites.

”Once given the all clear, the queen bees’ eggs or larvae will be grafted and added into Australian colonies,” Mr Cupit said.

He said counter-seasonal trade from the northern and southern hemispheres helped the industry improve genetics.

Importing bees legally was a good way to discourage illegal imports, which are more likely to breach biosecurity.

”You can always manage the risk,” Mr Cupit said. ”This is what we do, manage it to an acceptable level, we do this for all commodities. Even for Australian bees going elsewhere, the Canadians will do their own risk assessment.”

Mr Cupit said it was up to commercial parties to then determine what type of genetics they wanted to import.

Leave a Comment

(not required for anonymous comments)

(optional; will not be published)

Please Answer: *


Submit a Post

Upload Files