Wild European Honey Bee Management Program

Following on from the euthanasia and destruction of recreational and commercially managed hives within the red eradication emergency zone, the next phase in the eradication of Varroa mite includes the complete removal of wild European honeybees from the zone.

Information on the emergency zones can be found at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/varroa.

Euthanasia of wild European honey bees will be completed using a commonly available insecticide called fipronil. Fipronil bait stations will be located and operated by NSW DPI within the 10 kilometre zone around each of the premises where Varroa mite was detected (the Varroa mite red eradication emergency zone).

To ensure the safety of people, animals, livestock and the environment this work is strictly controlled by NSW DPI, in accordance with an Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority permit [PER84929v2]. The fipronil bait stations are designed to exclude other animals and insects, and to prevent contamination of soil and water. While the fipronil bait stations are in active use the baited area will be supervised by trained staff.

How will the program rollout?

The first round of bait stations were deployed in the Jerry’s Plains area. These bait stations have been operational since early October 2022.

Bait station deployment is now underway in the Nana Glen area of the Varroa mite eradication emergency zone. The Nana Glen bait stations will be operational from late October.

As the plan rolls out further across the eradication zones over the next few months, DPI will notify registered beekeepers within proximity to where bait stations will be deployed and directly contact landholders where bait stations are to be installed.

As per the Biosecurity Act 2015, you are required to authorise biosecurity officers to access your property to place baits in the red eradication emergency zone if requested to do so.

There will be at minimum a 2 km buffer area between bait stations and the purple surveillance emergency zone, to reduce the risk of European honey bees from outside the eradication zone interacting with the bait stations.

What actions do I need to take?

If you see signage or bait stations in your area, do not tamper with the equipment.

You can help protect Australia’s food security by contacting us if you see European honey bee hives in the Varroa mite red eradication emergency zone. Call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 or the online form, found at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/varroa.

The Biosecurity (Varroa mite) Emergency Order outlining the use of fipronil for the eradication of Varroa mites is available at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/varroa.

Production and sale of honey

NSW DPI is permitted to use fipronil to euthanise wild European honey bee under permit [PER84929] from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

Without any managed European honey bee hives within the eradication zone there won't be any honey production in the area, however it should be noted that under the permit, all hive products including honey and wax must be destroyed and not be consumed by humans or animals. Hive products must not be made available for sale or export as a raw or processed product.

Native Australian bees

Native Australian bees are not affected by Varroa mite. There is however, a very low risk that some native bees may be affected by the insecticide used to euthanise wild European honeybees.

A number of mitigation factors are in place to reduce this risk, including:

  • Use of fipronil in bait stations only when bees are active and when the baited area is under supervision by trained staff
  • Preliminary work conducted to attract wild European honeybees to the bait stations
  • Use of bait stations designed and operated to exclude non-target animals
  • Use of fipronil in bait stations only when bees are active and when the baited area is under supervision by trained staff
  • Removal of fipronil from bait stations overnight

Although native Australian bees are considered to forage only short distances from their hives, beekeepers who manage native hives should consider moving their native beehives from the Varroa mite eradication emergency zone or edge of the surveillance zone to avoid their bees having any contact with bait stations. Native bees are not covered by the current Varroa Mite Emergency Order and can be moved anytime without a permit.

NSW DPI will continually update the Australian Native Bee Association on the progress of baiting as the response continues.

For more advice on managing native bees near fipronil bait stations, contact the Australian Native Bee Association.

Wild European Honey Bee Management Program - Frequently Asked Questions

Wild honey bees are European honey bees living ‘in the wild’, building their own nests in tree hollows and other enclosed spaces. They are the same type of bees (European honey bees) as those kept by beekeepers in managed hives. Beekeepers often catch swarms of wild European honey bees and move them into managed hives.

Wild European honey bees are swarms of bees that originate from either a managed hive or another wild honeybee hive. As bee numbers in a hive become too great, a swarm of bees may break away and establish a new hive in tree hollow or other enclosed space.

European honeybees in the eradication zone are euthanised using a sweet liquid bait containing an extremely low concentration of fipronil insecticide. Fipronil is a proven and effective method for depopulating an area of European honeybees.

Attracting and euthanising wild bees using bait stations is the most practical way to keep the Eradication Zone free of wild European honeybees for the required timeframe. Unfortunately, there are no other practical ways to find and remove wild European honeybees from the Eradication Zone.

Fipronil insecticide kills insects (including bees) by affecting their nervous systems. It is used in over 200 registered products in Australia, including:

  • Home products for flea and tick treatments on pet dogs and cats
  • Home and commercial products for controlling termites, cockroaches and ants in houses and lawns
  • commercial products to control plague locusts, fruit flies, and other insect pests in crops such as bananas, broccoli, cabbages, cotton, potatoes, grapes, sugarcane, rice, mushrooms, canola and sorghum.

The concentration of fipronil in the bait stations is far lower than the concentration used in current home and garden products in Australia. For example, one of the flea treatments for dogs and cats with the lowest concentrations of fipronil contains 0.42 grams of fipronil per kilogram of product. DPI baiting stations will contain a mixture that has only 0.01 gram per litre of sugar syrup – approximately 42 times weaker than the fipronil flea treatment product.

At very low rates fipronil is highly toxic to both European honeybees and native bees. At the permitted rate, bees will need to feed on the fipronil in the bait stations multiple times before they are affected by the poison.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (the APVMA) is the independent federal government agency responsible for determining the safety of fipronil.

Its use for European honey bee euthanasia complies with strict conditions set out by the APVMA to ensure safety for operators, future bee keeping activities, non-target insects, birds and animals, people and children, and the environment.

The fipronil bait stations are signposted and placed in areas with restricted access. Most of the time they only contain a sweet liquid to attract honeybees. Fipronil is only added at the end of this period and removed once bees have finished feeding. DPI will inform publicly prior to the use of fipronil in your local area.

The APVMA has determined risk to humans, pets, livestock and wildlife is very low, due to the very low concentration of fipronil insecticide in the bait solution.

Risk to non-target insects is also low, due to a combination of the permit requirements, the attractant used, bait station design and the behaviour of European honeybees.

Bait stations are designed to exclude off-target animals such as birds or reptiles, and crawling insects. If off-target animals, birds or insects are observed entering a bait station the operation is suspended and a risk assessment undertaken to determine if baiting should continue.

Several studies have shown that colony death peaks within 1 to 2 days but may take up to 14 days for complete depopulation of a wild hive to occur.

There will be at minimum a 2 km buffer area between bait stations and the purple surveillance emergency zone, to reduce the risk of European honey bees from outside the eradication zone interacting with the bait stations.

The effect of fipronil on the numbers of wild European honeybees will be closely monitored. Over the duration of the management program, the numbers of wild European honeybees inside the Eradication Emergency Zone will drop, indicating the fipronil is working as expected.