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    BEE SECURE: Agriculture Victoria researcher Dr Linda Zheng with a world-first loop-mediated isothermal amplification, LAMP, test in the field.

AgLife: Safeguarding Australia’s food

Building pollination security and safeguarding Australia’s food was the theme of World Bee Day last week. 

Agriculture Victoria researchers have developed diagnostic tests to identify varroa mite and deformed wing virus – two of the most destructive biosecurity threats to the bee industry.

Dr Linda Zheng, who is part of the research team, said an uncontained incursion of varroa mite and associated bee viruses could potentially cost producers and consumers of pollination dependent crops up to $1.3-billion across 30 years.

Varroa mite is a parasite that sucks the blood of bees. It can weaken and kill honeybee colonies and transmit honeybee viruses such as the deformed wing virus. 

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“The deformed wing virus is the most devasting viral disease of European honeybees. Additionally if the virus is detected along with a mite infestation of the hives, the hive mortality could be up to 80 or 100 percent,” Dr Zheng said.

Dr Zheng is undertaking research  supported by Agriculture Victoria’s Livestock Biosecurity Funds to combine the two world-first loop-mediated
isothermal amplification, LAMP, tests. 

“The varroa mite is the vector that transmits the deformed wing virus, so it makes perfect sense to combine the LAMP tests into one, so one test can be used for both targets,” she said.

“Combining the two LAMP tests will improve efficiencies, cut costs and reduce the time taken by biosecurity officers in the field, leading to a more immediate response in the event of a detection.”  

The deformed wing virus and varroa mite are not present in Australia, despite a detection of varroa mite on a cargo ship in Melbourne port in 2018. 

Biosecurity officers’ surveillance operations, conducted over six months, confirmed it had not spread.

Dr Zheng said Agriculture Victoria was developing a range of diagnostic tests to support bee health including in-field and high-throughput diagnostics for some of the high priority exotic pests of bees.

“This research helps support Australia’s preparedness – if there is a disease outbreak that threatens bees, Agriculture Victoria has the capacity to provide surveillance and diagnostic services, as we have one of a few laboratories in Australia with bee diagnostics capability,” she said.

The entire May 26, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire May 26, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!