The first step is to pour gasoline into the beehive. Then it’s time to wait. The next day the work ends when the hive is lit.
Since last week, the cycle is being repeated near a port in eastern Australia, part of a government effort to protect the country’s multimillion-dollar honey industry.
Millions of bees have been destroyed to help stop the spread of the deadly varroa mite, which reappeared in the country last week near the port of Newcastle.
“Australia is the only major honey producer free from the varroa mite,” said Satendra Kumar, chief plant protection officer for the state of New South Wales. If the varroa mite became established in Australia, he said, it could cost the country’s honey industry more than $70 million a year, in addition to its impact on crops that rely on bee pollination.
The global agriculture industry is already grappling with high prices for fertilisers, fuel and machinery, as well as supply chain problems due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Ukraine war is an additional blow.
The government has ordered complete closure of beehives in the affected area of the state. Typically, beehives are moved from place to place, a process important to Australia’s $15 billion horticulture industry as they are used to help pollinate crops.
The mites, which are reddish-brown in color and the size of a sesame seed, can be spread from bee to bee and through beekeeping equipment, including combs. The government has said that if left untreated, the mite can kill an entire colony of bees.
The mite is not easy to contain, with even the New South Wales government agency in charge of the eradication effort conceding that “it is generally accepted that it is inevitable that varroa mites eventually establish themselves in Australia.” Will be.”
Nevertheless, the government is working hard to postpone the inevitable. According to the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, previous infestations in 2016, 2019 and 2020 are believed to have been successfully eliminated.
One of the biggest challenges in the current prevention effort is tracing the location of infected hives and mapping their spread over a vast area, according to Danny Le Feuver, Acting Chief Australian Honey Bee Industrial Council, He said it was necessary to contain the hives within the port of Newcastle and its 31-mile radius.
The port is a major shipping destination and one of the world’s busiest export centers for coal.
Mr. Feuvre and his team have partnered with at least 300 beekeepers to visit farms and help officials with their inspection campaigns. They wash the hives with alcohol and use sticky mats to check whether the bees are infested with mites.
At least 600 hives have been destroyed so far, each containing about 30,000 bees, he said.
But officials have found at least nine more places with infections – one as far as 235 miles away, near the town of Dabboo. State Agriculture Minister Douglas Saunders said at a news conference on Thursday that many more bees were at risk of extinction in the next few days.
“The beekeepers are very nervous at the moment,” said Mr. Fauvre.
He said he was confident that the country would be able to control the spread given its history. past eradication efforts Strict controls on bee stings and at all airports prevent travelers from bringing live plants, soil, fruits and vegetables into Australia.
“We’ve wiped them out for a long time,” he said. “We’re going to give it our best shot.”