You can’t help notice the wafting smell of honey and wax as you approach Two Creeks Honey and watch as Lynda Kay and her husband Rob inspect the hives in their white, netted protective suits.

But this idyllic scene belies the current crisis caused by the Varroa destructor mite in Australia, which once prided itself on being one of the few countries to be free from the deadly bee parasite.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) describes the mite as “the most serious pest of honeybees worldwide” and a first-hundred day response plan has been initiated. The Australian Honey Bee Council (AHBIC) has also held an emergency meeting going over the response and what industry is doing to prevent any further spread of the infestation.

Dr Chris Anderson, the deputy chief protection officer at the NSW DPI,  said: “It’s not actually [just] about being able to produce miticide free honey and miticide free beeswax… but it’s also about our ability to pollinate food.”

The Kays from East Lindfield, in Sydney, began beekeeping as a passion project and now have a number of rural hives, some of which have already been infected and needed to be destroyed.

It has been a huge setback for them.

“I work full-time during the week, life as a beekeeper is not a well-paying one,” said Rod.

A colleague of the couple, who took up beekeeping full-time almost two years ago, has had to burn almost all his hives.


Kay checks her hives. Photo: Evelyne Dowsett.

The DPI has estimated “Varroa mite could result in losses of $70 million a year should it become established in Australia”.

Steve Eastwood, an incident controller from the DPI said there are at least 99 infected sites in Australia so far.

However, preventative methods the DPI has recommended have worked.

Dr Chris Anderson said: “All the hives we moved and treated have come back negative.”

Methods of treating infected hives include sugar shaking, sticky traps and alcohol washes.

Dr Anderson attributed recent success to circling the infested areas with the compliance of local beekeepers, adding: “It isn’t over yet, we have a long way to go. We have our sites on the mite.”

Click here for more information on how to support small beekeepers or donate to the AHBIC which has been working on educating people and preventing further spread of the mite.

Main image by Evelyne Dowsett.