Varroa jacobsoni in Townsville - Updates from AHBIC

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE – NO. 17 - 2 March 2017
In the two and half months since I last reported there have been no Asian bees found in Townsville. Under the Response Plan the eradication phase of the program ended on 28 February and we now move into the proof of freedom stage. It is anticipated that the proof of freedom stage will last for three (3) years unless there are more findings of Asian bees and Varroa jacobsoni.

In February I spent a day in Townsville talking with the leaders of the eradication response. I was pleased with the discussions I had. Now the proof of freedom stage has been started there will be a reduction in the staffing numbers. Key members of the eradication program will be retained.

Thank you to the industry volunteers who went to Townsville to help out. Your input, particularly in showing the local beekeepers how to carry out sugar shakes, alcohol washes and drone uncapping, were very much appreciated by the local beekeepers. This testing forms an important part of the proof of freedom stage.

One of the staff who will moving onto another job is Roger Winton. Roger came in as the local controller when the Asian bees and V. jacobsoni were first found. I found Roger very easy to work with. So thank you Roger for your work. Best of luck in your new job.

So at this stage I will not be putting out any more information bulletins unless there is a change in the situation in Townsville.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE – NO. 16 - 19 Dec 2016
Thought I would let you know that since the destruction of the tenth nest in November there have been no foraging Asian bees seen in Townsville. Departmental staff are out actively carrying out floral sweeping and also using the helium balloon to check for Asian bee drones.

Local beekeepers have commenced the second round of checking managed hives by either alcohol washes, sugar shakes or drone brood uncapping. Tests to date have been negative for Varroa jacobsoni.

The industry volunteer program has been suspended at the moment due to the impeding wet season. The Department have distributed over 62,000 leaflets to Townsville residents asking them to be on the lookout for Asian bees or feral European bee nests. The public response has been very pleasing with all reports being followed up.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE – NO. 15 - 21 Nov 2016
Advice has been received that on Friday 11 November a nest of Asian bees was found in Queens Park in North Ward. It was about 5 metres up in a curtain fig tree. It was about 3 kilometres west from the original find at the port, 1IP.

Extraction was not easy and most of the dead bees were not able to be collected as they fell into a hollow section of the tree when sprayed. Examination of the brood comb revealed no V. jacobsoni.

It is estimated to be between 3 and 6 months old. No queen cells or remnants of queen cells were found.

A new numbering system is now being used and this find becomes 169POR. It is the tenth
detection. Advice has been received that genetic analysis of the first nine (9) detections show they are all related and as such originated from just one incursion.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE – NO. 14 - 4 Nov 2016
Advice has been received that on 18 October, 2016 a very small cluster of Asian bees was found at Belgian Gardens. This is about 4 kms from the original find at the port and about 400 metres fromm a previous find in the neighbouring suburb of North Ward.

No varroa mites were found on the bees. This becomes 9POR.

Currently no foraging Asian bees are being seen.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE – NO. 13 - 21 Oct 2016
Back in harness.
On 10 October, 2016 a small swarm of Asian bees was found at Castle Hill. This is not far from
North Ward where foraging bees have been found and continue to be found. So beelining is still continuing there. There were no mites found on these bees so it is 8POR.

With the agreement to the eradication plan, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Water Resources have advertised full time positions for the program. There have been interviews held and we await the appointments.

Our volunteers continue to go to Townsville with positive results. If you are interested in
volunteering please contact me. At some time soon we will cease sending volunteers as the wet season commences. We will re-commence when the wet season ends.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE – NO. 12 - 6 Oct 2016
Below is a press release put out by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Where the foraging cerana bees have been found in North Ward is about 4 kilometres north west from 1IP which was the original find at the Port of Townsville.

Queensland Government
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
5 October 2016
New movement restrictions for bees in Townsville

Changes have been made to the previous biosecurity restricted zone that was declared around the Port of Townsville to now cover the entire Townsville City Council area. The restricted zone was first put in place after varroa mites were found on Asian honey bees at the Port of Townsville in June. The zone was established to restrict the movement of potential carriers of varroa mite to prevent further spread.

Biosecurity Queensland Varroa Mite Response Coordinator, Craig Jennings, said the zone has
been extended to help with the eradication of varroa mites in Townsville. “We initially had a Movement Control Order that spanned 10 kilometres around the initial varroa mite detection,” Mr Jennings said. “We have now amended that Movement Control Order to include the whole of the Townsville City Council area. “This has occurred following the additional detection of a varroa mite on Asian honey bees at Annandale and the approval of a national eradication program for varroa mite in Townsville,” he said. “The types of items that the restrictions apply to have also changed. The restrictions now only apply to live bees, bee hives or any part of a bee hive that may be carrying live bees, including adults, brood, larvae and eggs.

“This amendment was based on advice from a panel of scientific and technical experts on what items had the greatest risk of spreading the mite. “Townsville beekeepers who want to move live bees, bee hives or any other item that may contain live bees out of the City Council area, will need to apply for a biosecurity instrument permit. “The restrictions do not apply to bees or bee hives that have originated from outside the Townsville City Council area and that are simply transiting through the area. “Queen bees and escorts can travel through Townsville by mail without a permit provided they are in sealed, unopened packages. Closed hives can also travel through the area as long as they do so without stopping,” he said.

“We are asking Townsville residents to remain vigilant and keep reporting bees to us, as foraging Asian honey bees have recently been found at North Ward, which is outside of the Townsville Port and Hyde Park areas where foraging Asian honey bees have previously been sighted. “If you see a swarm or nest, or just a couple of unusual bees, make sure you let us know by calling Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.” Varroa mites have the potential to significantly damage the Australian bee industry, disrupting honey production and pollination services.

For more information about the Movement Control Order, to apply for a biosecurity instrument permit or to see a map of the affected area, visit www.daf.qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE – NO. 11 - 29 Sept 2016
I would advise that a seventh detection of Asian bees (Apis cerana) has been found in Townsville in the eaves of a house on Friday 23 September. As there were no Varroa jacobsoni found in the nestite becomes 7POR (Premise of Relevance). It was found in the same area of Hyde Park that previous POR’s have been found.

This nest had a laying worker. If it had not been found it would have died out.

Since 7POR has been found, there have been no further drones found with the helium balloons.

Also there have been no foraging cerana workers sighted.

To date no cerana wings have been found in the rainbow bee eater pellets.
So this is all good news. Surveillance work by ground crews and also using the helium balloon is ongoing.

The eradication program goes into the Response Program phase from 21 October, 2016.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE – NO. 10 - 22 Sept. 2016
I would advise that a sixth detection of Asian bees (Apis cerana) has been found in Townsville in a compost bin. As there were no Varroa jacobsoni found in the nest it becomes 6POR (Premise of Relevance). It was found in the same area of Hyde Park that 4POR and 5POR were found.

There are still foraging Asian bees being found in the same area and beelining continues to locate these nests.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE – NO. 9 - 9 Sept. 2016

I would advise that a fifth detection of Asian bees (Apis cerana) has been made in Townsville on Tuesday 6 September. This was in an area, near 3POR and 4POR, where beelining has been taking place. No Varroa jacobsoni were found in the nest so this becomes 5POR.

There were around 2,500 bees in the nest with 250 drones.
The nest was located in the eaves of a house. The nest was in a poor condition with evidence of what looks like chalkbrood and small hive beetles and beetle larvae in the nest. Testing will be carried out to determine if it is chalkbrood.

The age seems to be similar to 4POR. The usual genetic testing will be carried out on the bees. There are still foraging bees in the area so beelining will continue to locate and destroy that nest/s.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE NO. 8 – 3 Sept. 2016

An update as to where we are in Townsville.

There have been no more reports of Apis cerana or Varroa jacobsoni in Townsville. Feral nests of Apis mellifera continue to be found, destroyed and, where possible, the nests sent down to Brisbane for examination for mites. So far no mites, as we would expect.

The Asian bees in Hyde Park are proving elusive. Beelining continues and with a bit of luck they will be found this coming week.

So far rainbow bee eater pellets have been negative for Asian bees.

I have just come back from a week in Townsville with the first of the industry volunteers. The main task for the volunteers is to teach the local beekeepers how to do sugar shakes, alcohol washes and drone uncapping. This is part of the monitoring for mites within the mellifera population. These beekeepers then can carry out the tests when required by the Queensland Department. Also some hives have been fitted with bottom boards that will allow the use of sticky mats and acaricide strips.

More information in the AHBIC newsletter which will hopefully be out tomorrow. As part of the work, using helium balloons with queen bee pheromone lures on them to then attract and trap drones were used. In the Hyde Park area, where that elusive nest is being sought, success in attracting and collecting drones was achieved. These drones will be used as part of genetic analysis. This proves this will be a useful tool in determining the presence of absence of Asian bees in an area.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE NO. 7 – 16 August 2016

I would advise that another nest of Apis cerana has been found in Townsville. As there were no Varroa jacobsoni found on them, this then becomes 4POR (Premise of Relevance). As I explained previously, the V. jacobsoni is the Emergency Plant Pest here and not the Asian bees so only finds of V. jacobsoni will be called an IP (Infected Premises).

4POR is one street away from 3POR so there is every possibility that 3POR came from 4POR.

There were around 5,000 bees in the nest and it is estimated to have been there since late last year.

Foraging cerana are still being found so beelining is being set up to track these to their nest.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE NO. 6 – 9 August 2016

I would advise that on Friday 5 August, 2016 a swarm of around 1,000 Asian bees was found at Hyde Park in Townsville. This is about halfway between 1IP and 2IP. It was reported by a member of the public.

Subsequent examination has found no Varroa jacobsoni on the bees so because V. jacobsoni is the Emergency Plant Pest, this new site is not an Infected Premises but is classed as a Premise of Relevance and will be 3POR.

As part of the surveillance the Birdlife Townsville group are collecting the regurgitated pellets from under rainbow bee-eater (Merops ornatus) roosts. The rainbow bee-eaters, as the name suggests, eat bees. When they come back to roost in a tree at night they regurgitate a hard pellet which contains parts that cannot be digested. The wings of bees are in this pellet and the wings of Apis cerana and A. mellifera can be distinguished by examining the veins in the wing. To date no cerana wings have been found. These roosts are about 3 kilometres from 3POR and would indicate that the number of cerana nests are low which is a good sign.

Surveillance around 3POR has found foraging cerana within 300 metres. Feeding stations will be set up and bee lining commenced to find this nest.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE NO. 5 – 4 August 2016

I provide this update not because there are any new developments in Townsville but I have had two (2) phone calls today asking questions from information that seems to be circulating that is not correct. I thought I needed to correct that misinformation.

Firstly I appreciate the fact that these two (2) people have phoned me to clarify what they have heard. I have been able to correct the situation for them.

The story that seems to be circulating is that the Varroa jacobsoni in Townsville is the one that is on Apis mellifera in Papua New Guinea. This is not the case. The V. jacobsoni in Townsville is the one from the Asian bee, Apis cerana. Expert advice received is that this mite will not reproduce on A. mellifera in the short term in Australia. From the experience in Papua New Guinea there are grounds to believe that if the A. cerana in Townsville was not eradicated and the V. jacobsoni bred on the A. cerana for an extended period in Australia then continued exposure to our A. mellifera population could result in a V. jacobsoni mite switching over to A. mellifera.

The above reasons make it imperative that any Asian bees in Townsville are found and destroyed and that is why the current response has been undertaken. The response is to V. jacobsoni as this is the Emergency Plant Pest but the only way to find V. jacobsoni is to find Asian bees.

Information that has been published says that when the V. jacobsoni switches over to A. mellifera, as has been the case in Papua New Guinea, that V. jacobsoni will not be able to reproduce on the Asian bee. So the only way that strain of V. jacobsoni could arrive in Australia is on A. mellifera and not A. cerana.

It is most likely that the Asian bees in Townsville have come from Papua New Guinea but again I reiterate that the V. jacobsoni that has been found on the Asian bees in Townsville is not the strain that has switched over to A. mellifera in Papua New Guinea..

If you hear something that is different to what has been put out, please feel free to contact me at any time to clarify the situation. It is crucial that any misinformation is quickly corrected before it does any damage. Things like social media have their pluses but they also have their minuses if information is posted that is not correct.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE NO. 4 - 20 July 2016

An update has been received to say that a varroa mite was found in the comb of the Asian bee nest at Annandale. This now becomes IP2.

This find is not surprising. Surveillance is now being carried out in the Annandale area around where this nest was found.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE NO. 3 - 20 July 2016

On Sunday 17 July 2016, a nest of Asian bees, Apis cerana, were found in a bird box at a residence in Annandale, Townsville. This is the second find in Townsville following the original find on 27 June.

Examination of the bees has found no Varroa jacobsoni and the comb is still being examined.

This find is around 9 kilometres from the original find at the port of Townsville.

APIS CERANA AND VARROA JACOBSONI IN TOWNSVILLE NO. 2 - 10 July 2016

To date no further Asian bees, Apis cerana, have been found in Townsville.

Further examination of the original comb has revealed three (3) more Varroa jacobsoni in worker comb making five (5) in total.

The V. jacobsoni mites detected in Townsville are on Asian bees, A. cerana. It is currently believed that these forms of varroa mite do not readily transfer between host species that is, if the mite is found on Asian bees, it does not readily move to European honey bees.

On Monday 4 July, 2016 a Movement Control Order for an area of 10kms around the Port of Townsville was issued. The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, QDAF, are in the final stages of preparing the Response Plan. This will be submitted to the Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests, CCEPP, this coming week.

Surveillance activities update

Biosecurity Queensland is implementing a quarantine and surveillance program within a 10 km radius of the Townsville port after confirming detection of varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni) in an Asian honey bee (Apis cerana) hive at the port.

The hive has been destroyed and no further feral Asian honey bees or varroa mites have been detected to date.

Restrictions have been imposed on the movement of bees, bee hives, bee products (excluding honey), and used bee keeping equipment from the Townsville area to prevent any possible spread of the mite.

Officers are currently focusing their surveillance efforts within a 2 km radius around the site of the detection. Biosecurity Queensland is working with the Federal Government to conduct this surveillance.

A range of methods are being used to conduct the surveillance including sweep netting flowering plants and setting feeding stations to attract any foraging bees.

Biosecurity staff are also checking catch boxes and sentinel hives that are set permanently around the port as part of the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program.

The department will continue discussion through the National Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests to determine required ongoing response activities for the varroa mite.

It has previously been determined that Asian honey bees cannot be eradicated from Australia. While response activities are focused on eradicating any varroa mites, this will involve destroying any Asian honey bee nests that we find.

APIS CERANA IN TOWNSVILLE NO.1 - 4 July 2016

Further to advice previously sent out to member bodies, the following has been approved for circulation to all industry members:-

 An Asian honey (Apis cerana) bee hive has been found at the port in Townsville, Queensland.

Scientific analysis of the bees has confirmed that two varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni) were present on two of the bees.

 The single hive was found within the hollow metal support of a container stand which has been in a storage yard close to the port for at least two years.

 Biosecurity staff from the Australian Government removed the hive and sent it for further diagnostic testing and analysis. A total of around 5000 bees were collected and removed from the site.

 A bee industry expert has been consulted and, after inspecting the hive, was able to advise that it is likely that it is possible that the hive had been there for up to two years.

 A check of the surrounding area has found no further Asian honey bees or their hives. Traps and sentinel hives that are already in place around the port as part of the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program have not collected any exotic bees or mite pests over the past two years.

 Testing will be done to see if these bees have any relationship to the Asian honey bee that is already present in areas of Far North Queensland, or bees that were associated with previous detections at the Townsville port – with the last detection having occurred in 2014.

 While Asian honey bees are established in areas of Far North Queensland, varroa mites are not known to be present in that population.

 The national Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests met on Friday 1 July 2016 to confirm the identification of the pests, and discuss the required response activities for Varroa jacobsoni. It has previously been determined that Asian honey bees cannot be eradicated from Australia, so response activities are only focused on the varroa mites.

 Australia has well established arrangements in place for responding to exotic pests, such as varroa.

This is a nationally significant pest that will see all efforts put in place to prevent it from establishing in Australia.

Further information will be published as it comes to hand.

The Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests is due to meet again this week.

Trevor Weatherhead

Executive Director

4 July, 2016