BIRD vomit is being analysed in Townsville in a bid to eradicate a parasite which threatens Australia’s bee industry.
Rainbow Bee-eaters are one of the secret weapon’s in Biosecurity Queensland’s program which aims to eradicate varroa mite, a pest which is carried by the invasive Asian honey bees.
As their name suggests, Rainbow Bee-eaters consume bees, but they are unable to digest their wings, which they later regurgitate as a pellet.
It is these pellets that are being analysed to see whether bees in the Townsville region are infected with verroa mite.
National Varroa Mite Eradication Program Leader Stephen Anderson said more than 40,000 pellets had been collected since the program began in June 2016.
“As the pellets can contain hundreds of bees, the analysis gives a valuable indication of the type of bees in the surrounding area,” Mr Anderson said.
He said no Asian honey bee wings had been detected in the regurgitated pellets for the past two years, however warned that the onset of warmer and wetter weather would lead to increased bee activity and bee swarms.
“Bee keepers and Townsville residents should keep an eye out for Rainbow Bee-eaters’ roosts and Asian honey bee nests and report them to Biosecurity Queensland so that they can be tested for varroa mites,” Mr Anderson said.
“If the roosts can be located, pellets can be collected from the ground under them and tested for the presence of Asian honey bees which are about 10 millimetres long and a little smaller than the European honey bee.
“Night-time roosting sites of the distinctive Rainbow Bee-eaters can be found shortly before dusk as they congregate in large numbers before settling in for the night.
“Day-time roosts are usually small trees with dead branches in open areas and several Bee-eaters will be seen near these trees throughout the day.”
Mr Anderson said varroa mites had the potential to disrupt honey production and pollination services and cause serious economic damage to Australia’s agricultural industries.
Biosecurity Queensland began an eradication program after Asian honey bees infested with varroa mites were first detected at the Port of Townsville in June 2016.
“It has been more than two years since the last varroa mite detection and Remembrance Day this year will mark two years since the last detection of Asian honey bee so we are well on the way to successfully eradicating varroa mites from the Townsville area,” Mr Anderson said.