Bee parasite found on ship

By Country News

A bee-killing parasite has been found at a Victorian 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 last Wednesday after the arrival of a ship, Agriculture Victoria said on Friday.

The threat was investigated and treated by the Federal Agriculture Department, but the state authority is continuing to monitor the situation as a ‘‘precautionary measure’’.

Netting has been deployed in the precinct 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.

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

‘‘Should it become established in this country, it will be a major problem to commercial and hobby beekeepers,’’ Agriculture Victoria 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.