New varroa mite infestation found near blueberry orchard in northern New South Wales

Avocado and blueberry growers in northern New South Wales are on high alert after a new varroa mite infestation was found in local hives.

The varroa mite is considered a deadly pest to honey bees around the world, and growers’ concerns are growing after an initial infestation of Newcastle Port last month spread north.

The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries confirmed on Tuesday that another infestation had been found near Nana Glen, northwest of Coffs Harbour.

There are now 43 infected premises in the state.

“The NSW DPI has established emergency zones around infested premises and has taken important steps to stop the spread of the varroa mite,” a DPI spokesperson said.

NSW Farmers Local Coffs Harbor Chairman Paul Shocker said the new outbreak is worrying growers as pollination season approaches.

“Without cattle, we can’t grow avocados or blueberries or a lot of other crops, for that matter,” Mr. Shocker said.

“Community reporting is a vital part of control measures and people should continue to report the location of any hives, both managed and wild, that they may know about.”

The Northern Rivers region, which includes Coffs Harbor and the Queensland border, produces significant quantities of Australian blueberries and avocados.

Varroa mites can only breed on honey bees and can quickly destroy any hives they infest.

The parasite was first discovered during a routine sighting in Newcastle Harbor on 22 June.

Since then, DPI has established emergency zones around infested premises to stop the spread of the tick.

“All beekeepers responsible for bee colonies or hives within the 50 km biosafety zone are either in the notification zone, or in the eradication zone, or in the surveillance zone,” a DPI spokesman said.

“In these areas, beekeepers must report to the NSW DPI where their bees and hives are located.

“This includes caged queen bees and packaged honey bees.”

Originally published as Avocados and blueberries in the line of fire as infestation spreads north