A DEDICATED locally-based team has taken over efforts to rid Townsville of honey industry pest, the varroa mite, following $2.6 million in federal funding.
The National Varroa Mite Eradication Program will run for the next three years with two key staff leading a team of 32 people.
Varroa mites were first detected at the Port of Townsville in June. Biosecurity Queensland implemented a movement control area which was extended to cover the entire Townsville City Council local government area.
Varroa mites have the potential to significantly damage the Australian agricultural sector and the bee industry, disrupting honey production and pollination services.
Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said the establishment of the National Varroa Mite Eradication Program would ensure a continuing long-term effort to protect the bee keeping industry from these significant mite pests.
“Since the initial detection, 10 Asian honey bee nests and swarms have been destroyed and only a very small number of varroa mites were present in two of the destroyed nests,” Mr Byrne said.
“The response team recently detected new swarms of Asian honey bees in Castle Hill and Belgian Gardens.
“While they didn’t have varroa mites, it highlights the importance of Townsville residents remaining vigilant and reporting unusual bee activity.
“The team is continuing surveillance in these suburbs to find the source of these swarms and the public can play a vital role in this.”
Mr Byrne said Asian honey bees were still being found in the Townsville area.
However, LNP opposition agriculture spokesman Dale Last said Labor was responsible for allowing the spread of Asian honey bees, which were the chief host-carriers of the highly destructive varroa mites, across North Queensland.
“The Bligh Labor government dumped the Asian honey bee eradication campaign just prior to Christmas in 2010 – sacking 35 Cairns-based staff with less than a day’s notice,” Mr Last said.
“Working with the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries based in Portsmith, staff included field officers, laboratory, mapping and data entry administration staff.
“They all got the sack, leaving them, their families and the Queensland honey industry in total shock with then Labor Minister Tim Mulherin going into hiding.
“The sad irony is we’ve now got recycled Labor Minister Bill Byrne spruiking a campaign to rid Townsville of Varroa mites through a dedicated locally-based response team.
“It’s rich for Bill Byrne to be mouthing off about continuing long-term efforts to protect our bee keeping industry from these significant pests.”
CLICK HERE to report suspicious bee activity call 13 25 23.