Beekeepers in Tasmania have been urged to stay vigilant after a bug described as a “pest” was found in a hive in the northwest of the Australian island state.
A spokesman for Biosecurity Tasmania – which is managed by the Tasmanian Department of Natural Resources and Environment – said apiarists should “closely monitor their colonies” for any sign of the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida).
Tasmania’s honey farms reportedly generate an annual turnover of AUD 12.8 million (EUR 7.9 million, GBP 6,9 million).
Lindsay Bourke – who heads the Tasmanian Beekeepers Association – labelled the small hive beetle a “shocking pest” and warned that the species would pose a serious threat to local apiaries.
Lindsay warned that the small hive beetle was “almost as bad” as the Varroa destructor, a globally existing parasite. An infestation of Varroa mites – which reproduce by attaching to the bees – can lead to the death of a whole colony.
ABC News reports that a 15-kilometre (9.3 miles) exclusion zone has been issued for the region around the port of Devonport.
The small hive beetle originates from Africa. It can cause serious damage to honeycombs, pollen and the colony’s stored honey.
Linsday told ABC News: “It puts a yeast right through the hive and all the maggots grow, and they slime it all out. Our mainland counterparts are having a terrible time with it. We certainly don’t want it getting into Tasmania.”
The beekeepers union president added: “It’s terrible. It’s a shocking thing, it ruins the honey, and it gets that bad that the bees leave.”
Federal government authorities confirmed that the small hive beetle has been detected in all Australian states except the Northern Territory.
Tasmania is located 240 kilometres to the south of mainland Australia. The island state has around 541,000 residents.
As of 2019, there were 29,690 registered beekeepers in Australia, according to BeeAware, an Australian apiculture news platform.