More NSW beehives to go as mite spreads

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Further hives will have to be destroyed in New South Wales after another mite infestation was detected outside the initial eradication area.

The mite was discovered in a beehive on a property near Cessnock, outside the current ‘red zone’ which encompasses Newcastle and surrounding areas.

In response, the Department of Primary Industries on Thursday widened the area in which beehives must be destroyed in order to stop the spread of the mite.

“The detection was kind of just outside of an existing red zone, so it’s pushing that zone back another 10 kilometers,” DPI spokesman Mark O’Brien told AAP.

“But it’s obviously important in the context of the response.”

A large research effort is underway involving the testing of 85,000 hives so far, which O’Brien described as similar to COVID-19 contact tracing.

“They identify an infected property, then they interview the owner and find out where all the hives have been for the past 24 months,” he said.

“Just like COVID when you do contact tracing of an infected person in the pub and you come back and ask all their friends, it’s the same thing.”

Australia is the only major honey-producing country that is largely free of varroa mites, considered the most serious pest affecting bees worldwide.

“NSW DPI has put in place significant measures to stop the spread of the threat beyond the perimeters of the eradication areas,” said Satendra Kumar, NSW DPI’s Plant Protection Officer.

“Industry and community cooperation is essential to help the response achieve the goal of eradication.”

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