Environment

Deadly blood-sucking bee parasite discovered at Port of Melbourne

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Australian bees have not yet been infected by the varroa mite parasite

Photo: Alamy

A bee-killing parasite has been discovered at a Victorian shipping port on board a vessel carrying hives, sparking biosecurity measures.

The deadly varroa mite, known to weaken and kill honey bee colonies, was detected at the Port of Melbourne on Wednesday after the arrival of a ship, Agriculture Victoria announced on Friday.

The threat was investigated and treated by the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, but the state authority has remained in the area to monitor the situation as a "precautionary measure".

Netting has been used at the ports and nearby parkland to contain the bees' movement as the department tests hives.

Initial results of the ship's established beehives were negative for the mites.

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Deformed bees caused by Varroa parasitism

Photo: Supplied

Australia has remained a varroa mite-free territory as the blood-sucking parasite spreads and destroys bee colonies in the US, Europe and New Zealand.

"Should it become established in this country, it will be a major problem to commercial and hobby beekeepers," an Agriculture Victoria statement said.

"In Australia, the spread of varroa is expected to be fast over long distances because of the migratory nature of the beekeeping industry."

The mites do not spread in honey, instead crossing between adult bees.

Australian Honeybee Industry Council representatives have been alerted to the detection.

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