Bert's Bee Blog July 2022

  • 02 Jul 2022 4:36 PM
    Message # 12835926

    Welcome to the July Blog.

    Well, this month we will discuss the disturbing news relating to the Varroa (destructor) incursion as reported in the biosecurity sentinel hives located at The Port of Newcastle NSW.

    The Alert Issued by DPI NSW has been included below and additional PDF documents have also been included for your information/attention.  Three YouTube references for Drone uncapping and Sugar Shake are also included.  Both QLD and NSW Biosecurity Alerts have also been included in this month’s blog.

    Firstly, it may be worthwhile to consider what we can do should it be necessary to open one or more of our hives.  One of the following diagnostic checks could be a valuable practice as appropriate for our situation or circumstances:  We will not be discussing any Control Methods in this blog as it is not considered appropriate at this time.  Diagnostic Checks are however considered appropriate and are also considered good practice even prior to this current alert.

    Sticky Board – According to Bayer (2019), this involves placing a flat insert underneath the brood box of the hive for a 24-to-72-hour period.  Dead mites and other debris fall from the combs onto the board.  The purpose of this is to assist the beekeeper to determine the daily mite drop and therefore estimate the severity if any infestation and moreover the appropriate control method.

    Powdered Sugar/Sugar Shake – Again Bayer (2019) suggest approximately 500 bees (less the queen) from the brood box are placed into a jar.  The bees are dusted with five tablespoons of powdered sugar and the jar is shaken several times.  This prevents the mite suckers (apoteles) on the legs from sticking to the host and they drop off the host.  The mites and the sugar are separated using a sieve or some other method and counting them on a light-coloured surface is again an indication of the infestation and the required control method.  This should only be carried out in dry weather to keep the powdered sugar from getting sticky and clumpy.

    The Washing Method – This method can be performed regardless of prevailing weather conditions, Bayer (2019).  Approximately 300 bees are removed and after washing in water with detergent in a jar, the parasites are sieved, and the bees and mites counted to calculate the ratio mites per 100 bees.  It is suggested that although the bees are sacrificed this does not impact on colony development or performance and provides valuable data to protect the colony.

    Both the powdered sugar and washing methods assist in the estimation of phoretic mites in the colony, that is those attached to adult workers or drones and feeding on the hemolymph or fat body of adult honeybees. 

    Drone Brood Removal/Drone Brood Decapping – Although technically considered a Control Measure this Biotechnical Method can assist to reduce the level of Varroa mites during the Spring to Summer drone rearing period (Bayer 2019).  It should be noted that mites infest drone brood cells as much as five to ten times more frequently than worker brood cells.  This method involves hanging an empty frame on the outermost part of the brood nest and then cutting out the drone comb with the sealed drone brood, a measure that beekeepers should repeat every two to three weeks.  It is argued that the level of infestation can be significantly reduced by utilising this method.  Considering that additional drone brood is reared elsewhere in the colony there will be sufficient drones to mate with new virgin queens on mating flights in the vicinity of the apiary.


    I am sure that we all are wanting a positive outcome from this situation, and we can only hope that all beekeepers do the right thing and take the appropriate action as directed by the DPI NSW. 

    Kind regards




    • 1.     A deadly honey bee parasite The Varroa Mite, bee care, Bayer AG Germany 2019
    • 2.     YouTube - Drone uncapping when checking bee hives for varroa mite – 2 min NSW Tocal College
    • 3.     YouTube - How to sugar shake bees – 11.42 min NSW DPI
    • 4.     YouTube – Biosecurity Queensland Bee biosecurity online talks – Mites and external parasites – 33 .07 min


    Movement restrictions in place for bees and bee hives

    Varroa mite detected in New South Wales

    A Movement Control Order is in place in Queensland restricting the movement of bees and bee hives from New South Wales into Queensland to keep Varroa destructor (varroa mite) out of the state. Restrictions include the movement of bees, bee hives, bee products (including honey) and used bee keeping equipment.

    Bee hives can continue to be moved within Queensland. In NSW, there is a state-wide standstill of all bees, hives, apiary equipment and untreated bee products.

    Biosecurity Queensland is urging beekeepers to remain vigilant after varroa mite (Varroa destructor) was detected at the Port of Newcastle in New South Wales.

    Varroa destructor was detected in two of six sentinel hives at the Port on Wednesday 22 June 2022 after routine surveillance on sentinel hives by NSW bee biosecurity officers.

    Varroa destructor is a tiny parasite that attaches itself to honey bees and honey bee brood. It affects Asian honey bees and European honey bees and is considered the greatest threat to Australia's honey and honey bee pollinated plant industries.

    There are two species of varroa mite, Varroa destructor and Varroa jacobsoni. Both species are not established in Australia. Australia is one of the few countries in the world to remain free of varroa mite.

    "Given the serious nature of the detection of varroa destructor in Newcastle, the Queensland Beekeepers’ Association is committed to the national response to contain and eradicated the mite. The Queensland Beekeepers will work closely with the Queensland Government to assist in the national response efforts and support the surveillance activities to protect the Queensland honey bee industry."

    Jo Martin

    State Secretary
    Queensland Beekeepers’ Association

    What you can do

    All beekeepers should monitor their hives and immediately report unexpected hive deaths, deformed bees, bees with parasites, poor brood patterns and dead brood to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23. If you own or keep at least one hive, you must register as a biosecurity entity. Registration is free for non-commercial beekeepers and native bee hives do not need to be registered.
    Got a question? Ask your question and find the resources you need via our
    online portal.
    Find out more about
    varroa mite.

    Identifying varroa mites

    Varroa mites are external parasites of adult honey bees, as well as drone and worker brood. Adult female varroa mites may be seen on larvae, pupae and adult honey bees, while juvenile and adult male varroa mite can usually be seen on larvae and pupae.

    curved, pinhead-sized mite
    adult females are reddish-brown, flattened, oval-shaped, with body 1–1.7mm long and 1.5–1.99mm wide
    adult males are yellowish, spherical, with body 0.75–0.98mm long and 0.70–0.88mm wide
    may be seen on thorax or nestled into abdominal folds of adult bees
    obligate parasites of honey bees and do not survive for long away from a host.

    How varroa mite spread

    Drone bees can move varroa mites from hive to hive and even between apiaries. Varroa mites are agile, move into hives quickly and transfer through contact between bees. There are strict quarantine requirements in place to protect the Australian honey bee industry.

    Impacts to the bee industry

    If varroa mite was to establish in Australia, European honey bee and the pollination services provided could be reduced by 90-100%. It is estimated that varroa mite could result in losses of $70 million a

    This email was sent by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to


    The following Alert was issued by DPI NSW 28 June 2022.

    Varroa Mite


    NSW DPI has detected varroa mite, which was confirmed as Varroa destructor, in biosecurity surveillance hives at the Port of Newcastle.

    NSW DPI is working to protect the NSW honey industry by ensuring we eradicate the parasite.

    Varroa mite biosecurity zone and what to do

    Last updated: 6.20pm, 28 June 2022

    A new emergency order has been issued (PDF, 372.68 KB) for the current response to eradicate pest parasite varroa mite.

    A further emergency zone has been established a short distance from the Port of Newcastle. Location of this emergency zone can be see on the map below.

    In NSW - you must not move your bees, including queen bees and packaged bees or your hives anywhere in NSW.

    You also cannot tamper with your bees unless you are doing sugar shake, ethanol washes and brood uncapping to check for the presence of varroa mite. If you think you have found varroa mite, you must tell NSW DPI immediately.

    There are four varroa mite zones.

    Different restrictions apply depending on where your bees and hives are located.

    If you have bee colonies or hives in the Notification zone, Eradication or Surveillance zone, you must tell NSW DPI where they are. This includes queen bees in cages and packaged bees.

    If you find varroa mite in a hive you are responsible for, notify NSW DPI by:

    If mite surveillance is carried out on your hives, you cannot move or interfere with any equipment placed in your hives by NSW DPI staff.

    Figure 1

    View larger map

    What is Varroa mite?

    Varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni and V. destructor) are the most serious pest of honey bees worldwide. The mites are tiny reddish brown external parasites of honey bees.

    How is it characterised?

    On their own, individual mites are easily identifiable to the naked eye.  Left untreated varroa mite will kill any bee hive it infects. All feral and untreated bee colonies will eventually die.

    How is it spread?

    Drone bees can move varroa mites from hive to hive and even between apiaries. Mites are agile, move into hives quickly and transfer through contact between bees. There are strict quarantine requirements in place to protect the Australian honeybee industry.

    Where is it found?

    Varroa infects honeybees in every major beekeeping area of the world, except Australia.

    What is the potential cost to Australia?

    It is estimated that varroa mite could result in losses of $70 million a year should it become established in Australia.

    How is it treated?

    Beekeepers are encouraged to inspect their hives regularly for signs of varroa mites.

    How do I report it?

    If you see anything suspicious use the online form at, send an email to or call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline 1800 084 881.

    Are you an unregistered beekeeper?

    You can register now here

    Do you want to report your hive locations to help protect the NSW honey industry?

    You can use this form before you register and let us know where your hives are located. There are no repercussions for not being registered.

    Do I have to report my native beehives?

    No, people and organisations with native beehives do not need to report them.

    Do varroa mites affect native bees?

    No, varroa mites affect honeybees, they do not affect native bees.

    More information about Varroa mite

    For more information, see the varroa mite primefact.

    Media release: Varroa mite incursion detected (24 June 2022)

    Media release: Statewide Emergency Order issued for Varroa mite in NSW (26 June 2022)

    Additional information from NSW Biosecurity is also attached to this blog.


    Fortunately, at the time of drafting this blog no further alerts have been issued. 






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