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Asia Minute: Australian honey bees facing parasitic challenge

honeybee generic file photo
Esteban Felix/AP
FILE - A bee feeds on honey from a honeycomb at a beekeeper's farm in Chile, Monday, Jan. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Australia has a problem with honey bees. The issue involves a parasite, a virus, and potentially tens of millions of dollars in losses.

Government agriculture specialists in Australia’s state of New South Wales are on the hunt for the varroa mite.

That’s a tiny parasite that can transmit a virus deadly to honey bees.

Up to now, Australia has been the only major honey-producing country in the world that has been able to avoid the mite — but those days appear to be over.

Agriculture Secretary Dugald Saunders says 600 bee hives have been destroyed as part of an effort to eliminate the parasite.

Each hive has between 10,000 and 30,000 honey bees.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports the government is trying a number of strategies to stop the damages and wipe out the mite.

The movement of bees around the state has been banned — the BBC has called the action a “bee lockdown” — designed to stop the spread of the parasite.

Previous outbreaks have been controlled in Queensland and Victoria — and agriculture officials say they are confident the current outbreak can be contained — although the next few days are critical.

And it’s not just honey that’s under threat.

The New South Wales Farmers Association says about a third of Australia’s food production depends on bee pollination — from almonds and apples to avocadoes.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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