Varroa frequently asked questions

This page is updated daily.

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.

Read more about Varroa mite on our Primefact.

Varroa mites can spread through drifting drones and worker bees as well as through swarms and absconding colonies. The transport and movement of hives, used beekeeping equipment, packaged bees and queen bees are also effective means of spread.

Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) was detected in two of six sentinel hives at the Port of Newcastle on Wednesday 22 June 2022. The detection was the result of routine surveillance on sentinel hives by NSW Bee Biosecurity Officers.

The current detection is the first time Varroa mite has been found in NSW.

NSW DPI ran the sugar shake campaign in autumn this year, receiving a record number of responses, none of which showed the presence of Varroa mite.

Tracing is a critical part of every response and is a focus for us as we eradicate Varroa mite in NSW. Sourcing 12 months worth of data around the acquisition of honeybees from the Newcastle area will ensure we have all the information we need to continue this surveillance work.

Sentinel hives

The sentinel hives near the Port of Newcastle are closely monitored honeybee colonies used for early detection of diseases and pests, including varroa mite.

All around the country surveillance hives are placed at ports through the national bee pest surveillance program, which is a partnership between government and industry to ensure an early surveillance network across the country.

This detection is a demonstration of the effectiveness of this partnership.

The sentinel hives are checked every six to eight weeks.

Detection

The biosecurity order allows you to test for Varroa mite. You can either test using the ethanol (alcohol) wash or sugar shake methods.  The alcohol wash is a more sensitive test than sugar shake. Sugar shakes are still an appropriate surveillance tool.

Watch the online video with instruction on how to use the ethanol (alcohol) wash to detect Varroa mite in your hive.

You should report results of your ethanol (alcohol) wash test to NSW DPI, via the Beekeeper Notifications - Varroa Mite online form.

Yes, hives can be inspected using the sugar shake test. Instructions on how to do this can be found at on the DPI website or by watching the online sugar shake video.

You should report results of your Sugar Shake test to NSW DPI, via the Beekeeper Notifications - Varroa Mite online form.

No, bees must be euthanised and hives destroyed by NSW DPI staff. If you have bees and hives in this zone, you must make them available to NSW DPI staff.

What can I do with my hives?

Beekeepers under the Biosecurity Emergency Order, in all zones except the red (eradication) zone can remove honey from hives.

Remove honey from hives provided:

  • The beekeepers shed and apiary are within the same emergency zone.
  • The beekeeper must take all practicable measures to clear all bees from the supers.
  • Honey supers on vehicles must be bee proof before leaving site and remain bee proof until arriving at the shed.
  • Supers must be transited directly to their shed and supers must be stored in an enclosed shed.
  • Vehicles must be thoroughly cleaned of any honey and wax once unloaded.

Empty supers may be placed on hives provided:

  • Beekeepers can only transport super from the shed to one apiary. Beekeepers cannot load supers then visit multiple apiaries.
  • The supers have been in the shed for 21 days prior and have had no contact with bees during the 21 days.
  • Supers may not go from a shed to an apiary if the shed and apiary are in different zones.

Beekeepers within the red eradication zones are permitted to remove honey from their infected hives or flow hives, if they are to be euthanised in the following 48 hours. Specific requirements apply as listed in the Emergency Order.

As per the emergency order, a person in an emergency zone must not feed bees, unless they are feeding bees using a permitted bee feeder in all zones.

A permitted bee feeder is a device for feeding bees installed in or attached to a hive and that can only be accessed from inside that hive, by the bees living in that hive. These include top hive feeders or frame feeders. Permitted bee feeders must be new or have not been in contact with bees for 10 consecutive days before it was installed or attached.

Sugar and sugar syrup left in the open for bees to access from other than a hive is not a permitted bee feeder.

A person must not move a bee feeder into, out of or within the Varroa mite general emergency zone, eradication zone, surveillance zone or notification zone.

You can only move honey that is food grade (processed) honey.

    Registered beekeepers in all zones except the eradication (red) zones are permitted to work their hives:

    • for surveillance
    • to remove frames and supers for honey extraction
    • to place an empty super on a full hive o to prevent swarming o to euthanise a queenless hive (a hive that does not have a functional queen bee)
    • to seal a dead out hive (where bee colony has died or left)
    • to treat hive for American foulbrood or small hive beetle

    It is important to note the ‘do not move’ component of the order will remain in place; hives are still not allowed to be moved within NSW. This includes nucleus hives.

Honeybee industry information

Read our Assistance Guide for Beekeepers of various assistance available to impacted beekeepers to support them through the emergency response.

Updates sent directly to registered beekeepers can be found here.

August

July

June

Registered commercial beekeepers

Registered commercial beekeepers will be compensated for all essential equipment, hives and honeybees that are destroyed through the eradication process and the costs for reimbursement will be shared by industry and state and commonwealth governments.

Further information will be made available.

Registered recreational beekeepers

Recreational beekeepers affected by varroa mite will be reimbursed for the destruction of their hives and bees under the agreed National Response Plan.

If you are a recreational beekeeper and your hives are to be euthanised within a red eradication zone, there are three options for reimbursement.

  • Destruction and disposal of bees and hive ware
  • Euthanised bee colony and keep hive ware
  • Euthanised nucleus hives

The amounts available for reimbursement are as follows:

  • Destruction and disposal of a fullsize hive - $550 dollars per single hive.
  • Keep hive ware - $200 per single hive.
  • Euthanised Nucleus hives - $200. (The beekeeper can opt to retain or have the nucleus hive ware destroyed and disposed of, the amount of reimbursement will be the same).

The compensation framework has been established since 2005 by industry and government under the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed.

Under the current Order, swarms cannot be caught in the red zone, and cannot be moved in any other zone.

If you are aware of a swarm in the red, purple or yellow zones please report it using the online form at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/hives or call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline 1800 084 881.

If there is any danger to public safety please call 000 immediately.

Eradication zone

The red coloured areas on the live map represent the eradication zones where honeybee hives will be euthanised.

If you have honeybee colonies or hives in an eradication zone, you must tell NSW DPI where they are. This includes queen honeybees in cages and packaged honeybees.

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

  • Check the latest updates at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/varroa and use the online map to confirm which zone(s) your hives are in.
  • Notify NSW DPI of any hives you are responsible for within the eradication (red), surveillance (purple) or notification (yellow) zones, preferably online by completing the Beekeeper Notifications - Varroa mite online form.
  • Notify the Department of any colonies of feral honeybees that you are aware of.
  • If you detect Varroa mite in a hive you are responsible for, call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline to report your detection on 1800 084 881 (9am to 5pm, 7 days a week).
  • Harvest honey or honeycomb within 48 hours of being told by an authorised officer that your bees will be euthanised.
  • Place empty supers on hives to manage swarming if not infected or suspect premises.
  • Take action to manage American Foul Brood, small hive beetle, dead out hives and queenless hives.

All these actions are subject to strict conditions. More information on the red zone conditions can be found at the Varroa information page at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/varroa.

Beekeepers in eradication (red) zones must not:

  • Move hives or honeybees away from their current site
  • Move apiary equipment outside the zone
  • Euthanise hives, burn or otherwise dispose of equipment (unless directed by an authorised biosecurity officer)
  • Tamper with bees and hives, except as permitted above

Targeted surveillance has provided a clearer picture of the current spread of Varroa mite. The priority of the emergency response has now returned to euthanising known infested hives and conducting more intensive surveillance within the red zone to identify any other hives that will require euthanising.

When an authorised officer is tasked to visit you to discuss or work with your bees, they will be in touch via the contact details we have listed for you (phone call, text or email). They will inform you of the address they are going to visit.

You don’t have to change your usual schedule in the meantime.

When an authorised officer is tasked to visit you to discuss or work with your bees, they will be in touch via the contact details we have listed for you (phone call, text or email). They will inform you of the address they are going to visit.

You don’t have to change your usual schedule in the meantime.

Unfortunately, in some circumstances it may be necessary to euthanise honeybee colonies in the eradication zones and destroy internal hive equipment such as brood and honey frames.

However, NSW DPI has completed a risk assessment on options to decontaminate external equipment such as hive boxes, pallets and straps as well as metal ware so they can be retained by beekeepers.

The response plan has been updated so equipment will only be destroyed when a risk assessment deems it necessary.

As per the agreed response plan developed in partnership with the honeybee industry, fipronil baiting will be used to euthanise honeybees suspected of being infested by the Varroa mite.

DPI are following the guidelines as set out by the permit approved by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. The permit has precautions in place to protect all native non-target wildlife and other fauna. There is an officer present at the baiting station the entire time making sure non-target animals are not consuming the chemical, including native bees. Bait stations are covered by a cage to prevent any non-target species from exposure to the chemical.

Currently there is an emergency use permit for miticides (such as mite away strips), which means only authorised people can apply miticide strips to hives.

All people who have acquired honeybees (including queen bees, nucleus hives and hives with honeybees) from within the 50km emergency notification zone of the Port of Newcastle in the last 12-months are being urged to play their part by reporting them to help ensure business continuity for the bee industry.

Report these honeybees using the online form by NSW DPI.

Community reporting will hopefully help us facilitate and free up the movement of honeybees in the rest of NSW, especially around almond pollination.

  • The red represents the 10km eradication zones where honeybee hives will be euthanised.
  • The purple shows the 25km surveillance zones, where officials are monitoring and inspecting managed and feral honeybees to limit the extent of these incursions.
  • The yellow represents the 50km biosecurity zones and beekeepers within that area must notify NSW DPI of the locations of their hives.
  • The blue shows the rest of the state emergency zone.

Note: beekeepers in all these zones must notify NSW DPI of the location of their hives.

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

The response plan for the eradication of Varroa mite in NSW follows a strategy agreed between the apiary industry, NSW DPI, neighbouring jurisdictions and the Commonwealth.

The aim of the response within the eradication zones is to eradicate all hosts of Varroa and maintain a program of host eradication in each zone for three years to minimise the risk of reintroduction of Varroa or survival of Varroa on undetected hosts within the zones.

Recreational beekeepers affected by varroa mite will be reimbursed for the destruction of their hives and bees and other property. If you are a recreational beekeeper and your hives are to be euthanised within a red eradication zone, there are three options for reimbursement.

  • Destruction and disposal of bees and hive ware
  • Euthanised bee colony and keep hive ware
  • Euthanised nucleus hives

For more information on reimbursements please visit the Varroa information page at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/varroa.

Surveillance and Notification Zone

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

Note: beekeepers in all emergency zones which can be seen on the live map at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/varroa must notify NSW DPI of the location of their hives.

The purple shows the 25km surveillance zones, where officials are monitoring and inspecting managed and feral honeybees to limit the likelihood of incursion into this zone.

The yellow represents the 50km biosecurity notification zones and beekeepers within that area must notify NSW DPI of the locations of their hives.

Beekeepers with hives in the surveillance and notification zones are allowed to work those hives.

Those beekeepers can:

  • Remove honey from hives provided:
    • The beekeepers shed and apiary are within the same emergency zone.
    • The beekeeper must take all practicable measures to clear all bees from the supers.
    • Honey supers on vehicles must be bee proof before leaving site and remain bee proof until arriving at the shed.
    • Supers must be transited directly to their shed and supers must be stored in an enclosed, bee proof shed.
    • Vehicles must be thoroughly cleaned of any honey and wax once unloaded.
  • Place empty supers on hives provided:
    • The supers have been in the shed for 21 days prior and have had no contact with bees during the 21 days.
    • Supers may not go from a shed to an apiary if the shed and apiary are in different zones.
  • Feed bees using permitted bee feeders (a device for feeding bees that can only be accessed from inside that hive – includes top hive feeders and frame feeders. Permitted feeders must be new of not have been in contact with bees for 10 consecutive days before installation.
  • Move food grade (processed) honey between zones.
  • Conduct alcohol washes or sugar shake tests on your hives to check for Varroa mite.
  • Remove honey from a flow hive via a tap.

Beekeepers must:

  • Notify NSW DPI of any hives you are responsible for within the eradication (red), surveillance (purple) or notification (yellow) zones, preferably online by completing the Beekeeper Notifications - Varroa mite online form.
  • Notify the Department of any colonies of feral honeybees that you are aware of.
  • If you detect Varroa mite in a hive you are responsible for, call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline to report your detection on 1800 084 881 (9am to 5pm, 7 days a week).

Beekeepers in surveillance and notification zones must not:

  • Move hives, brood boxes, nucleus hives, packaged bees or queen bees anywhere, including within the same zone.

Stressful events can cause feelings of worry and unease, especially where there are levels of uncertainty involved, but there are things you can do to take care of yourself.

In tough times we need to remember to look after ourselves. As much as possible, maintaining routines with good diet, exercise, and sleep will increase your capacity to deal with stress.

This is the time to stay connected with family and friends and seek for support when you need it.

Mental health support is available through

Hive Movement Declaration

The movement plan allowing approved registered commercial beekeepers to move hives has been developed through a risk-based approach. This means that risk has been assessed, and we've worked to put as many actions in place to ensure that risk of Varroa mite moving to other parts of NSW is as low as possible.

The actions to keep risk as low as possible include:

  • requiring beekeepers to alcohol wash hives prior to moving (the number required dependent on how many hives owned to be moved)
  • only permitting honeybee and hive movement between low risk areas of the State (Emergency (blue) Zone)
  • requiring beekeepers to complete training on the permit, what's required of them and learning more on the Varroa mite
  • requiring beekeepers to declare they have not been in the relevant emergency zones (as noted above)
  • intensive surveillance at pollination services locations, using strips and sticky mats which are checked regularly across some hives.

The permit applies to registered commercial beekeepers.

This permit only applies to a person (or corporation) who has

The Hive Movement Declaration is permitted primarily for hives that are in the Emergency (blue) Zone.

The movement of any hive that has been in the following areas in the 24 month period prior to the date of the proposed movement is not permitted:

  • eradication emergency (red) zone
  • surveillance emergency (purple) zone
  • notification emergency zone (yellow) zone

The movement of any hive that has been in the Narrabri emergency zones after 30 April 2022 is not permitted.

  • This means, the movement of hives that were in the Narrabri zones before 30 April can be moved, once a Hive Movement Declaration has been completed.

Once submitted, your application will be able to be printed, and you are able to move hives and honeybees as you have stated in the application.

The Rural Financial Counselling Service NSW, or Rural Financial Counselling Service NSW Northern Region can assist beekeepers with forms

  • RFCS NSW - 1800 319 458
  • RFCS NR – 1800 344 090

NSW beekeepers are not permitted to move hives into Victoria.

For more information see the Victorian Government website

Yes you need to submit a new Hive Movement Declaration when you want to move your honeybees and hives again.

No, a copy of the declaration and the emergency group permit must be carried by those transporting the declared hives.

The online course will take approximately 20-40 minutes to complete.

Go to the online course via Tocal College.

Hives may be moved anywhere between low risk areas of the State (Emergency (blue) Zone) for pollination, or to access nectar sources. This will assist with pollination requirements across NSW.

NSW DPI will be ensuring that beekeepers and growers are following the procedures.

There will be surveillance undertaken on hives to ensure that no varroa is detected outside current biosecurity zone using mite control strips and mats.

Compliance checks will also be undertaken to ensure that requirements of the permit have been followed for beekeepers and growers.

No, there are no impacts on bees themselves. The miticide strips are only being placed in 20 hives per enterprise and in accordance with the APVMA permit, strips are planned to be in place for three days (the APVMA permit allows for up to six days). If honey is to be harvested from the hive the honey must be tested to ensure it is below the maximum residue limit. Where possible we will target hives without supers.

You must keep an electronic or written record of your alcohol wash testing and complete the minimum amount of tests before completing the Hive Movement Declaration.

These records must be kept for five years.

Alcohol wash has been determined as a more effective test for this purpose, and therefore the only testing method acceptable.

No. NSW DPI will be carrying out compliance checks. We’re working with beekeepers and growers to ensure that the permit requirements are followed to allow business continuity.

The Biosecurity Emergency Group Permit remains valid until any amendment or cancellation. Remember, you need to complete the declaration form for every movement of honeybees and hives, even if you are returning to the same location.

This is required under the Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice and is legislated under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

Hives must be transported in a manner that prevents the escape or entry of bees out of or into those hives.

It is not required to cover your hives when travelling. However if travelling during the day it is recommended to cover your hives with netting.

Biosecurity Emergency Group Permit – Movement Qld Transit for registered beekeepers to transit through NSW to and from QLD has been announced. Hives must be transported in a manner that prevents escape or entry of bees out of or into those hives.

Registered beekeepers must not transit through the Varroa mite eradication emergency (red) zone, Varroa mite surveillance emergency (purple) zone or the Varroa mite notification (yellow) emergency zone. Beekeepers must transit NSW in the shortest possible time and the hives must not remain within NSW for longer than 48 hours.

Hives and honeybees that have been in an eradication zone (red zone) within the past 24 months or in the Narrabri emergency zone since 30 April 2022 are not permitted to be moved.

A copy (electronic or paper) of this Group Emergency Permit should be carried by beekeepers while transporting the hives and evidence of NSW or Queensland registration.

See additional information about entry conditions to other states:

Surveillance of hives moved under the Hive Movement Declaration

During this surveillance, a total of 20 hives across an enterprise will be sampled using miticide strips and sticky boards. This approach, in combination with the mandatory alcohol wash, will provide the balance between minimising the impact to the beekeeper's enterprise and attaining the level of confidence of hives being Varroa mite free.

The total number of enterprises sampled will be dependent on a number of factors including weather and available resources

The risk of potential residue issues due to miticides being used in surveillance is reduced by

  • Sampling only 20 hives per enterprise
  • Using the most appropriate miticide with lowest residue risk while also maintaining maximum efficacy

Maximum Residue Levels (MRL’s) are in place for Bayvarol allowing for the honey to be sold provided it is under the MRL.

Surveillance on 20 hives per enterprise, using miticide strips and sticky boards, is based on the

  • prior confidence of freedom attained from the initial alcohol wash prior to movement,
  • the probability of new infestation since the first sample (1%),
  • the expected infestation of 5% hives or greater,
  • the sensitivity of the test (95%),
  • specificity of the test (100%) and the
  • required confidence of freedom from infestation of 95%.

There is no intention of locking bees down on almond orchards.

For the enterprise that owns the infested hives the following will occur:

  • The infested load of hives will be euthanised.
  • Zoning will not be applied to the almond property.  Tracing will be undertaken to determine the premises of origin of the infested hives and that site will be subject to zoning.
  • All other hives associated with the enterprise will be allowed to move onto another crop e.g. canola where they will be subject to intensive surveillance.

For neighbouring hives the following will occur:

  • A risk assessment will be undertaken on the likelihood of how far bees have travelled from the infested hive (1-3km) and will be based on health of the almond bloom, prior weather conditions and proximity to other sources of food such as canola crops.
  • Neighbouring hives that are within the determined radius will be allowed to move onto another crop e.g. canola where they will be subject to intensive surveillance.

Any varroa mite detection beyond the current red zones will be notified immediately to the Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests.

Feral beehives

Within a Red Zone No: Where the feral beehive is within the red zone (eradication zone) a person who interferes with or tampers with a beehive or bees, without being directed to do so by an authorised officer or for the purposes of undertaking surveillance may contravene clause 17 of the Biosecurity (Varroa Mite) Emergency Order 2022 (the Order).

Outside a Red Zone Yes: A feral beehive may be destroyed in the other zones by a licensed pest controller., as this does not occur under the Order. However, we note that there is no compensation available under the Biosecurity Act 2015 or any other agreement for the destruction of feral beehives.

If no, what action should be taken in regard to feral hives that pose a threat to public safety?

In all of the zones, eradication, surveillance, notification and general zone, a person who becomes aware of the presence of a colony of feral bees because of consultation or other professional work carried out on the premises must notify the Department of the location of that colony.

Nothing. You should manage the hive as you usually would. We note that where the hive is contained in a structure or tree it is not considered to be a hive under the Order. This is because a hive is an artificial receptacle designed for the housing of bees and does not include naturally occurring feral bee hives.

In the eradication, surveillance and notification zones a person who becomes aware of the presence of a colony of feral bees because of consultation or other professional work carried out on the premises must notify the Department of the location of that colony.

If you see a swarm in a public place you may report it using the online form or call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Swarms cannot be caught in the red zone and they cannot be moved into any other zone.

Native bees

European honeybees will be affected by mites and the baiting chemical

Native bees are not affected by varroa mite.

Native bees and native beehives are not covered under the Biosecurity Act and therefore can be moved legally in NSW. Varroa mite does not present a risk to native bees and native bees are not a carrier of the mite.

Floodwatch and beekeepers

A group permit was issued,  allowing the movement of honeybees and hives to a higher location on the same premises but only if that premises is in a flood watch area.

This group permit has now expired.

Adverse weather will impact our ability to access some locations where hives are if they are in flood-affected areas.

NSW DPI field crews will continue surveillance work in safer locations until the threat passes. We will continue to euthanise the hives and secure them so the risk is taken care off. The actual disposal can happen later.

Flood waters will not create any significant increased risk, however we are permitting beekeepers to move bees away from flood waters (see above question).

When the honeybee dies, so does the Varroa mite. Varroa mite can’t survive more than 6 days without the honeybee.

We are not concerned about Varroa mite spreading through flood waters.

Finding out information

If you are a registered beekeeper we can contact you with information as it comes to hand. You can also monitor for updates on our social media channels or via the website at: