Varroa destructor broke Australia’s strict quarantine procedures in June 2022. Despite a large-scale program by government officials and beekeepers to eradicate the mite, on September 19, 2023, the Australian government declared the mite endemic in Australia and for beekeepers to move away from surveillance and mandatory euthanization of infested colonies to managing the mite. Between June 2022 and September 2023, government apiary inspectors destroyed 30,000 colonies, although fewer than 300 of these were infested.
Even though the policy of exterminating infested colonies has been abandoned, some strict movement and testing policies will remain to slow the mites’ spread. There has been a concerted effort by many beekeepers and government officials to eradicate varroa in the last 15 months. Still, the difficulty of destroying infested feral colonies, and non-compliance by some commercial beekeepers, led to the spread of the mite over large areas. In particular, the recent discovery of infested managed colonies that somebody had moved many hundreds of miles to the almond orchards for pollination was a significant setback to the eradication strategy.
Over several years, apiary inspectors, beekeeping organizations, and universities have worked to prepare the industry for a possible incursion. Several miticides have been provisionally approved and will quickly be made available. There is also a program to breed Varroa Sensitive Hygienic bees, VSH, which has received government and industry funding. Fortunately, much information is available from overseas, and Australian beekeepers can draw on this to learn quickly how best to manage the mite.
— Dr. Robert Owen, Melbourne