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  • Gavin King

    Tropic Now editor

    Email Gavin King

    Protecting our local honey is everyone's bees wax

    Beekeepers in the tropical north fear a biosecurity bungle at Townsville could devastate the local bee population and wipe out more more than just pots of honey.

    A foreign bee hive carrying a deadly parasite remained undetected at Townsville Port for the past two years.

    Why is this important?

    Because it poses grave risks to the tropical north's bee population and honey industry.

    And governments aren't doing anything much at all to stop it.

    An Asian Bee (Apis Cerana) hive was located in the hollow metal support of a container stand at the Port of Townsville last week and scientific analysis of the bees confirmed that varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni) were present on two of the bees.

    Varroa mites are an exotic deadly parasite considered to be the greatest challenge and threat facing beekeeping around the world. So far, Australia had been one of the few places on earth to escape the scourge of Varroa mites.

    Cairns beekeeper and owner of Honey Providore Graham Thornton said the "biosecurity bungle" posed grave risks to the tropical bee population.

    Bees are important beyond the awesome honey they produce. They are also vital contributors to the production of food and pollinate a third of everything we eat.

    Studies suggest 84 per cent of the crops used for human consumption (some 400 different types of plants) need bees and other insects to pollinate them.

    "This is a great failure of Biosecurity Queensland, but of no surprise", Mr Thornton said.

    "Biosecurity Queensland have previously demonstrated an inability to act decisively to prevent the spread of Apis cerana.

    "I expect we will see similar results this time unless considerable pressure is applied by the beekeeping industry.

    "In the Cairns incursion it was stock inspectors with no knowledge of bees or beekeeping engaged to do the work. This time it will be plant health inspectors and again with no knowledge of bees or beekeeping."

    Mr Thornton believes the response from government would be very different if a similar incursion was found in southern areas.

    "All it takes is one swarm of Asian Bees to hitch a ride in a Banana Truck headed to southern markets, and within 24 hours, it would be a completely different story," he said.

    Mr Thornton is urging consumers and other bee-keeping regions to rally behind the North Queensland industry before it's too late.

    "We need to let our local political representatives know just how important this issue is. We must act now before it's too late," he said.