Until recently Australia has been the last continent to be free of the honey bee-killing varroa mite so it is somewhat of a disaster for it to arrive here, not that I want it anywhere in Australia but it’s disappointing that it just happened to land right on my doorstep in the Newcastle area.
All beehives within 10km of detection sites are scheduled for extermination. I have been watching each day as the map showing 10km red circles keep growing. During this time the movement of all hives has been banned so there is no escape except to sit back and watch as the red zones of death get closer and closer each day as new cases are discovered.
Yesterday, the 9th of July I found my location is now in the red zone so I am anticipating a call to arrange someone to come poison and then burn all my hives. Although most of my hives are either plastic or foam boxes, so not sure if they can be burned but will wait and see.
I am not a biosecurity expert but I honestly am very doubtful the measures being taken will eliminate the mite as once it spreads to hives in the wild, won’t destroying human-managed hives be pointless? It’s here to stay in my opinion.
A Mental and Financial Loss
By commercial beekeeper standards I would only be a small player in the grand scheme of things, some businesses run hundreds or even thousands of hives, I have about 70 in total. This is still very sad for me, although you don’t have the same bond with bees as you would a cat or dog, they are still something you are looking after so although as of right now they haven’t been destroyed yet I am already feeling a sense of loss. There is of course the financial loss, beehives aren’t cheap and it’s taken about 7 years to multiply them to the stage they are currently, I estimate the value of honey sitting in the hives currently to be $5000-$7000. There are supposedly plans for an $18 million dollar compensation fund however no details yet as to what value they will pay per hive that is destroyed.
An End to Beekeeping Classes
Not many people would know, but I have been running beginner hands-on beekeeping classes monthly and at times fortnightly for the past few years, this has been great fun for me. The proceeds of which helped get Honey Wines Australia started in the first place. No more.
Shortly, my wife and I will be moving to Broke NSW, there we plan to open a small shop to sell the mead and honey products, like a small cellar door in the Hunter Valley wine region.
Although varroa mite is not the end of the world, it does make beekeeping significantly more difficult. There are already enough pests and diseases for beehives such as the small hive beetle for example, which make beekeeping hard enough. If varroa mite is here to stay, and my bet is that it is, I probably will retire from beekeeping and just buy honey for the mead as I have little willpower left in me to be constantly battling varroa and small hive beetle in addition to running an online business and shop.