Victorian beekeepers have been busy assisting their northern cohorts as varroa mite spreads in Newcastle and Hunter regions.
And while there is no need for producers to panic at the present moment, Commercial beekeeper Peter McDonald believes the quick, efficient work of beekeepers around the country is essential to containing the outbreak.
Mr McDonald, a fifth-generation beekeeper based in Castlemaine, was recently in NSW as an industry liaison at the State Control Centre for varroa Mite response, based in Orange.
The trip was vitally crucial for him as any decisions by the industry in New South Wales can have ramifications in the broader beekeeping industry.
"Because our industry is relatively small, and it's a bit specialised, it's important that we're there to be able to inform them and educate them about beekeeping," he said.
"We are also advising them on what they've got to consider in terms of any response to try and eradicate varroa mite."
Mr McDonald commended the organisation of the New South Wales authorities so far, and the preparation for the outbreak was second to none.
But caution was still required, and the response to the outbreak must be significant and prolonged.
"There's been a hell of a lot of people that have been put in [the State Control Centre], and this response will continue for a while," he said.
"This is a big thing for the honeybee industry and it's also a big deal for potentially the ramifications for food production, pollination and food security."
Many meetings and phone calls to develop plans made up part of his role, and while Orange was the "hot zone", there were also many local experts on the ground in Newcastle, called the "eradication zone" where the outbreak was taking hold.
"We are just trying to be prepared on anything that may come up and keep it running smoothly," he said.
"I'd like to highlight that this isn't established right now, but hypothetically, if it did, it would gradually spread across the eastern states," he said.
"This could be a national problem for all beekeepers within Australia. "While Tasmania and Western Australia are protected due to natural barriers, bees can cross borders often, and varroa mites can spread if beekeepers move hives inadvertently."
He advised beekeepers to keep on checking hives as much as possible. He said while it may be inconvenient in winter, it was necessary to regularly check as there was evidence of quick mite spread in other countries where beekeepers delayed checking their hives.
Over in Gippsland, the Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath met with members of the Gippsland Apiarists Association in Wiseleigh to talk to industry about solutions.
She said the state government needs to step in to prevent the mite from travelling into Victoria and expand biosecurity measures and advocates for projects like the Gippsland-based Purple Hive Project Project which shows real time screening of hives.
"Local apiarists and honey producers fear the Andrews Labor Government isn't doing enough to ramp up early detection and control strategies," she said.
"While Victoria runs its own sentinel hive program and works with bee keepers to monitor for diseases, the industry needs every weapon in the toolkit deployed to limit the spread of the varroa destructor," Ms Bath said.
"Varroa mite has the potential to have a catastrophic impact on Gippsland's honeybee populations and our industries that rely on crop pollination to thrive."
Varroa mite was first detected about a month ago in two sentinel hives at the Port of Newcastle.
Since then, Agriculture Victoria has restricted the movement of beehives into Victoria from NSW.
On Friday, a permit system was introduced to allow Queensland and South Australia beekeepers into the Sunraysia region.
Victoria's chief plant health officer Rosa Crnov said the Sunraysia permit system was introduced to guarantee producers can source bees for the region's valuable almond pollination to go ahead.
"We're doing all we can to support Victoria's almond producers and to keep Victoria free of varroa mite," Dr Crnov said.
"Our bee biosecurity team will be on the ground during the pollination season, inspecting hives and working with beekeepers to ensure hives arrive and leave in a healthy state."
Permitted beekeepers from those states will still need to inspect their hives before arriving at Victorian almond orchards.
As of Monday, varroa mite has been detected at 40 premises in NSW.
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