Understanding and Dealing with the Varroa Emergency

Varroa Destructor is an external parasite that attaches and feeds off the body fat of the honeybee (Apis Mellifera & Cerana). It breeds in the brood cells where the young feed on the proteins of the bee larvae severely weakening the young bee and transferring disease.

Varroa Destructor Emergency

14 March 2023 – Nine new cases of the varroa mite have been identified across the New South Wales Central Coast and Hunter regions in a major blow for authorities that have been working to contain the parasite. The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) says the infested premises are in Glen William, Brookfield, Sawyers Gully, Yarramalong, and as far south as Horsfield Bay, Woy Woy, Koolewong, and Umina Beach. The Central Coast’s red eradication zone has been extended and now covers almost the entire region.

The DPI said this meant all beehives and equipment in the affected areas would have to be destroyed and treatment of wild bee populations on the Central Coast would be prioritised to prevent the mite’s spread further south.

How did this all start? On Wednesday the 22nd June an initial detection of Varroa mite was found in sentinel hives at the port of Newcastle. A second confirmed detection in a commercial load of bees occurred within 10km on Saturday 25th June. An Emergency Order was put in place preventing beekeepers from moving or tampering with their hives unless performing surveillance action such as a ‘sugar shake’ or ‘alcohol wash’.

We ask our members to follow these orders in accordance with the directions from the Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI). Please see the following link for up to date information and news releases.


If you find varroa mite in a hive you are responsible for, notify NSW DPI by:

Please also follow the clubs Facebook page for the latest updates and news on whats happening and how it relates to members and our region.


Swarm prevention


The Emergency Response Fact Sheet from the NSW DPI is very clear with Beekeepers able to actively take some steps to reduce the occurrence of swarming, these are detiled below:

What can I do?

In the eradication (red) zone, you can:

  • place empty supers on hives to manage swarming if you are not on an infected or suspect premises.

In the notification (yellow), surveillance (purple), and general (blue) zones, you can:

  • place empty supers on hives to manage swarming.

An empty super is a honey super with empty frames that has not been in contact with bees for 21 days. Supers cannot be moved from any biosecurity zone. You must comply with the conditions set out in the emergency order.

Can I collect swarms?

Using the map above, work out where your swarm is located, this will determine what course of action can be taken.

Blue (General) Zone – Yes if you are a registered beekeeper. However the club is no longer collecting swarms. Swarms may still be collected by individual beekeepers.

Purple (Surveillance) Zone – Yes, a registered beekeeper may catch a swarm of bees, but only for the purposes of destroying that swarm.

How do I connect with a beekeeper to collect a swarm?

Determine which zone the swarm is located in, if in the blue zone:

If in the red zone, the swarm must be euthanised, contact the following for further advice:

Large parts of the north shore and northern beaches is now in the Purple (Surveillance) Zone. This includes our club at Terrey Hills. The purple zone now encompasses Collaroy, Oxford Falls, Belrose, Davidson, St Ives, Pymble, Turramurra, Normanhurst, Westleigh and all suburbs north of this line and East of Kenthurst, Middle Dural and Maroota, we urge you to check your location on the DPI map above or directly off the DPI website below.


As a registered Beekeeper, what are you permitted to do in the Purple Zone:

  • Moving hives in or out of the Purple zone is not permitted
  • Hives may be moved within the Purple zone if they have been split but must remain within the same property or apiary
  • Swarm Prevention methods and feeding of bees is permitted
  • Collection of honey for the purposes of extraction is permitted within the Purple Zone as long as the hive and extraction premises are within the same zone
  • Collection of swarms is allowed for the purposes of destruction of the bees only

See the Plain English Guide for more clarification on what you can and can’t do.

As a registered Beekeeper, what are your obligations?

Remember you must not move any bees or hives without either:

You must be up to date with your mandatory alcohol wash requirements and also have completed the Tocal College Varroa mite online training before the bees can be moved. You must carry the permit or declaration with you when moving hives failure to produce one when asked can result in an on the spot fine.

Mandatory Alcohol washing

By now all beekeepers should have completed at least one mandatory alcohol wash of their hives and most importantly reported the results using this form.

You must complete and report an alcohol wash at least once in every 16 week period.

Please complete this test: it’s the only way the DPI can measure the effectiveness of the measures so far, this information is what allows the case to be made to keep on controlling the infection….so it’s very important.

AHBIC May 2023 Update and Presentation

See the videos below for a tutorial on actions to be taken in detecting mites in your hives. For a thorough check, the alcohol wash is recommended as it is very effective in removing the mite from the bees for detection but is lethal to the bees. The sugar shake method is non-lethal however may prove ineffective in some cases, more rigorous rolling/shaking will result in better mite dislodgement.

How to Sugar Shake to check for Varroa in your hive

How to Alchol Wash your bees to check for Varroa


Any questions or enquiries? Talk to us today!