Varroa find threatens NSW berry production

·2-min read

A new varroa mite detection has been confirmed on the north coast of NSW, threatening the pollination of berries, avocados and macadamias.

The infested hives were found at a property in Nana Glen, northwest of Coffs Harbour, leading to another set of biosecurity zones for beekeepers and bringing the total of infected premises to 43.

Thirty-two hives have been destroyed at the property, with around 1800 hives now euthanised since the mite was first detected near the Port of Newcastle on June 22.

NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said while the new detection is worrying, it is directly linked to a previous zone.

"What that goes to show is that it's human beings moving the hives that are the great risk here. It's not bees here flying vast distances, it's hives being moved," he told AAP.

"This one was moved just before the lockdown of hive movements came into place."

The mite is the worst pest the industry could face, NSW Apiarists' Association president Steve Fuller said.

"If we can't get the bees in to get the pollination berry sizes go down, it means prices are going to go up in the supermarket," he told a media conference on Tuesday.

September is the next pollination, covering a large area that includes some 80 per cent of berry crops in NSW, Mr Fuller said, and everyone needs to work together to eradicate the mite.

The majority of Australia's blueberries are grown on the Coffs Coast, but the region is also a major growing area for other fruits and vegetables, including avocados.

Blueberry and avocado growers say they're worried about the arrival of the mite in the region.

Paul Shoker, chair of the Coffs Harbour branch of NSW Farmers, said it's a "bit of a worry" as pollination time approaches, with farmers unable to produce avocados, blueberries or a lot of other crops without bees.

The avocado farmer urged people to do the right thing.

"Community reporting is a vital part of control measures, and people should continue to report the locations of any hives, both managed hives and wild hives, they might be aware of," he said.

A statewide standstill of hives still applies, while movement from the general biosecurity emergency zone is being allowed under a permit-based system.

There was an estimated 315,100 bee hives in NSW before the mite was detected.

In Australia, the value of honeybees providing pollination services to agricultural industries is valued at $14.2 billion.

Mr Saunders is visiting growers in the north coast region on Tuesday to discuss the impact of the new eradication zone.

The minister again pleaded with beekeepers to register their hives and said there will be no fines for those who have been previously unregistered.

"The good news is we can still draw a direct line between every single case so far, which means we have a good handle on the situation," he said.

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