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Beehive Early Warning System at Port Kembla

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1 May 2008 -

Australia's defence against swarms of exotic honey bees has been strengthened with the placement of a sentinel hive at Port Kembla, Minister for Ports and Waterways Joe Tripodi said.

'Australia is the last major beekeeping country not to be infested with the varroa mite, otherwise known as exotic honey bees,' Mr Tripodi said.

'This gives us a distinct marketing and beekeeping advantage over the other major honey producers and we want to keep it that way.

'We can now detect straight away if any varroa mite jump ship.

'Early detection is currently the only defence we have against varroa, and this is a way to alert authorities of its presence early - which also increases the chances of a successful eradication program.'

Port Kembla is the latest international port to be targeted under the National Sentinel Hive Program, funded by Biosecurity Australia, and managed in NSW by NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

International shipping movements at Port Kembla are rapidly increasing with the port soon to take up the role of the main car port for NSW.

Under an agreement between NSW DPI and the Port Kembla Port Corporation, a local beekeeper has been given port access to regularly monitor the hive for any signs of varroa, tropilaelaps and tracheal mite.

NSW DPI livestock officer (Apiculture), Nick Annand, said the co-operation of the Port Corporation was crucial to the surveillance program.

Early detection of exotic bee diseases is also important for the protection of a range of agricultural and horticultural industries which rely on pollination by honey bees,” Mr Annand said.

Twenty seven locations around Australia were identified as high risk introduction points for exotic bee diseases, seven of which are in NSW.

They include Port Botany, White Bay, Newcastle, Mayfield, Goodwood Island, Kurnell and Richmond.

Port Kembla Port Corporation CEO Dom Figliomeni, welcomed the inclusion of Port Kembla in the sentinel hive program.

Biosecurity is an important priority for the port and Port Kembla Port Corporation wants to work cooperatively with agencies to minimise the risks of pest incursions,? he said.

The hive is located in the inner harbour area of Port Kembla, in a position which is remote from pedestrians and workers, but close enough to cargo handling and transport operations to be useful for the detection of any introduced pests.

The program relies on the generosity of beekeepers who keep hives in the proximity of the targeted high risk areas to undertake the sampling using plastic strips impregnated with a miticide in combination with a sticky matt placed in the brood box.

Live bees are also sent to a CSIRO for analysis and collated for the country by Biosecurity Australia.

NSW DPI encourages all beekeepers to regularly monitor their hives for the pests using sugar shaking kits which are issued free of charge.

Further information about the program can be obtained from Nick Annand at NSW DPI’s Bathurst office on (02) 6330 1210 or mobile 0413 278 595.

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