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Hort Innovation News and events Media Releases Boost for beekeeper’s varroa-monitoring toolkit
Media Release

Boost for beekeeper’s varroa-monitoring toolkit

Publication date: 4 December 2023

Pairing the current alcohol and soapy water washes, sugar shakes and sticky strips with laser beams, cameras, vibration detection and DNA testing, are just some of the options being looked at to help beekeepers to monitor their hives for Varroa Mite.

Delivered through Hort Innovation and led by Macquarie University, research began earlier this year to equip the horticulture sector with innovative methods to detect and control Varroa Mite as Australia moves into the management phase.

In the first phase of the research, scientists have reviewed new and innovative tools and methods that are being used across the globe for varroa mite detection and are evaluating how effective their use would be in the Australian beekeeping context.

Hort Innovation chief executive officer Brett Fifield said the research underway gets Australia on the front foot for curbing the impact of the pest.

“As we move into the management phase for Varroa Mite, it is essential that the horticulture sector has a multi-pronged approach to safeguarding our pollination,” Mr Fifield said. “Learning from other countries about their experience with managing Varroa Mite will accelerate Australia’s response and improve our ability to navigate this transition.”

A comprehensive list of available monitoring techniques and tools for Varroa Mite is now available on the Hort Innovation website here. The list houses key information for beekeepers on the suitability and effectiveness of the different detection methods, including materials required, percentage of varroa mite recovered, costs, time required, repeats required and any restrictions to use. There is also a list under development of new monitoring techniques and technologies that could become available in the future.

NSW DPI has also developed a factsheet about Varroa Mite and Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is available along with other information on IPM for beekeepers on the NSW DPI website here.

Macquarie University senior research scientist Dr Mary Whitehouse said the research team is now shifting its focus on to international research into Varroa Mite control.

“From this base, our ongoing efforts are centered on active collaboration with researchers and industry people, staying current with global research on varroa management, and ensuring our findings benefit the wider beekeeping community across Australia,” Dr Whitehouse said.

“In the first phase of this research we have advanced our knowledge of available detection techniques, and now our focus is on reviewing control methods, with an emphasis on non-chemical approaches.”

“To this end, we will be holding a varroa mite workshop at Macquarie University in late January, where we will bring together our research team, overseas varroa mite experts, and a range of industry stakeholders including beekeepers and industry leaders from around Australia, to review the non-chemical control methods we have identified as potentially useful for Australia. We will discuss how they could be modified both to better suit Australian conditions, and to be a practical fit given Australian beekeeping demands.”

Beekeeper Steve Fuller said the findings will help prepare beekeepers for their future living with Varroa Mite.

“Varroa mite is here to stay, so research like this is invaluable in expanding our management toolkit and keeping us up-to-date with what tools and technology are out there,” Steve said.