Detection of varroa mite in surveillance bee hives in New South Wales last June prompted warnings that it could cost the agriculture sector $70 million a year in losses if the mite spread to other hives. Authorities warned yesterday that six new cases of varroa infestations had been detected, including some outside of Newcastle, where the majority of cases had so far been found. Australia has been the only continent free of the varroa mite parasite, which has destroyed bee colonies around the globe, and which is deemed the most-serious "global pest" when it comes to honey bees.
Plant Health Australia's Sarah Corcoran agreed that the current outbreak could possibly have been prevented by detector dogs. Ms Corcoran said that more than $55 million had been budgeted by government and industry to eradicate the mite after last year's detection. “We will potentially see an increase to costs of fresh fruit and vegetables at the shops and that's really hard to imagine, given that we're seeing that already, for that to continue to increase because we just don't have pollination, or pollinators around in the form of European honey bees," Ms Corcoran said.
According to the department's website, the unhindered spread of varroa mites could cost horticulture production up to $1.31 billion over 30 years.