States and territories will reopen their borders to bees from most of NSW for the first time since a varroa mite outbreak was discovered in Newcastle last June.
In what has been described as a major milestone for Australian beekeepers, the NSW blue distress zone has been declared free of the invasive mite.
Red and purple zones remain in effect in areas around Newcastle, where beekeepers are still required to closely monitor the health of their hives and report regularly to authorities.
NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said other states will reopen for the transfer of Blue Zone bees and hives across borders for pollination in the coming weeks.
“This is an important step in the fight to eradicate the mite, and for our beekeepers and pollinator-dependent industries that have struggled for the past seven months,” Saunders said.
“But now is not the time for complacency; now more than ever we need beekeepers to make sure they continue to do the right thing and monitor their alcohol washing so we keep going in the right direction.
NSW will work with South Australia, Victoria and Queensland to develop a set of conditions for interstate travel.
Danny Le Feuvre, CEO of the Australian Honeybee Industry Council, said the news has boosted confidence that eradication of the varroa mite in NSW is possible.
“While the industry will continue to be impacted by the varroa mite invasion, the adoption of this document is a critical step forward in achieving business continuity, as best we can, for the industry,” he said.
In November last year, a new outbreak of varroa mite was detected on a site near Cessnock, leading to an extension of the existing red zone, which applies to all hives within a 10 km radius of an infested property.
Those in the red zone are required to completely destroy their hives to stop the spread of the varroa mite.
A purple zone, applicable to beehives within a 15 km radius outside the red zone, was considered part of the emergency surveillance zone.
All other areas of the state were considered blue zones and were also subject to strict restrictions on carrying hives.
NSW has approximately 13,000 registered commercial and recreational beekeepers.