Home NewsAustralia A bee-killing pest could have been sniffed out by dogs — but the government stopped training them to detect it

A bee-killing pest could have been sniffed out by dogs — but the government stopped training them to detect it

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A bee-killing pest could have been sniffed out by dogs — but the government stopped training them to detect it

Australia’s sniffer canines have not been sniffing for queen bees and weren’t on the beat when the lethal varroa mite arrived final 12 months.

That is regardless of the specter of the bee parasite devastating honey bee populations and inflicting tens of thousands and thousands of {dollars} of disruption to meals crops throughout Australia.

A spokesperson for the Division of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry confirmed to the ABC that, for seven years, its canines weren’t detecting the scent of bees, however couldn’t reply why.

“Queen bees have been re-introduced to the detector canine goal odour checklist on the finish of 2022 as a part of a overview into threat controls for varroa mite,” the spokesperson stated.

“We perceive the odour was eliminated in 2015, nevertheless there isn’t any particular data referring to the choice made at the moment.”

A dog handler and a detector dog at Perth airport
The Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has deployed detector canines since 1992.(ABC Information: Armin Azad)

The revelations come because the division seems to chop prices after falling hundreds of millions of dollars into debt.

Detection of varroa mite in surveillance hives in New South Wales final June prompted warnings that it might value the agriculture sector $70 million a 12 months in losses if the mite unfold to different hives.

Authorities warned yesterday that six new circumstances of varroa infestations had been detected, together with some outdoors of Newcastle, the place the vast majority of circumstances had to date been discovered.

Australia had been the one continent freed from the parasite, which has destroyed bee colonies across the globe, and which the division deems the most-serious “international pest” on the subject of honey bees.

The Australian Honey Bee Trade Council’s Danny Le Feuvre stated he was shocked to be taught that Australia’s sniffer canines had solely not too long ago resumed coaching to detect the scent of queen bees.

“We have been unaware of this taking place,” Mr Le Feuvre stated when contacted by the ABC.

“The sniffer canines are our first line of defence. To know that one of many crucial instruments within the instrument equipment — sniffer canines — hasn’t been used is regarding.

“We all know that the queens can carry a raft of various viruses, ailments and pests.”

Authorities are but to find out how the varroa mite entered Australia, however Mr Le Feuvre stated it was “actually a chance” the varroa mite might have “hitchhiked on a queen bee”.

He welcomed the resumption of detector canine coaching for the queen bee odour.

Apples, cherries, macadamias on hit checklist if pest spreads

Plant Well being Australia’s Sarah Corcoran agreed that the present outbreak might probably have been prevented by a detector canine.

A man in a pale blue shirt, dark trousers and glasses sits on a wooden farm fence, looking serious.
The Australian Honey Bee Trade Council’s Danny Le Feuvre says the bee trade was not conscious the detector canines had stopped sniffing for queen bees.(Provided: AgExcellence)

Ms Corcoran stated that greater than $55 million had been budgeted by authorities and trade to eradicate the mite after final 12 months’s detection.

Nevertheless, it might change into extra expensive if the mite turns into established.

“We’ll doubtlessly see a rise to prices of recent fruit and greens on the outlets and that is actually onerous to think about, on condition that we’re seeing that already, for that to proceed to extend as a result of we simply do not have pollination, or pollinators round within the type of European honey bees,” Ms Corcoran stated.

In line with the division’s web site, the unhindered unfold of varroa mites might value horticulture manufacturing as much as $1.31 billion over 30 years.

Apples, almonds, macadamias, cherries, avocado, blueberries, cucumbers and mangoes are among the many most bee-dependent crops grown in Australia.

In 2000, a New South Wales beekeeper was prosecuted after making an attempt to smuggle queen bees, hid in pens, into Australia.

A report by the inspector-general of Biosecurity discovered there have been 80 canines within the division’s detector canine program in 2012, which had fallen to 39 by March 2020.

In line with the division, there are at the moment 46 detector canines now working on the Australian border.

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