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BEE AWARE: Port of Townsville bolsters Varroa mite fight with Purple Hive Project

Page last updated on 15-05-2023.

BEE AWARE: Port of Townsville bolsters Varroa mite fight with Purple Hive Project

15th May 2023

Artificial intelligence will be used to monitor for the destructive bee pest Varroa destructor at the Port of Townsville following the installation of Purple Hive Project (Purple Hive) technology.

The Port of Townsville has joined forces with Biosecurity Queensland and the Purple Hive Project, an initiative by Vimana Tech, supported by Bega Group in a Queensland first to monitor for the pest which has the ability to decimate Australia’s agriculture industry.

The Purple Hive Project uses artificial intelligence to scan honey bees for Varroa destructor, which was recently found in Australia for the first time in NSW.

“The Port of Townsville has been identified as a critical partner for the Purple Hive Project as ports have been flagged as high-risk pathways for bee pests to enter Queensland,” Port of Townsville General Manager Assets and Environment Mark McNeil said.

Bees can enter Australia on vessels or in freight which can spread pests like Varroa destructor, which can kill off honey bees and in turn have a crippling effect on plants which require the pollinators to reproduce.

“Townsville was at the forefront of the fight against Varroa mite following detections of Varroa jacobsoni in 2016, 2019 and 2020,” Mr McNeil said.

“While these incursions have been officially eradicated, we continue to work alongside Biosecurity Queensland to ensure Queensland remains varroa mite free.

“Townsville is Australia’s largest sugar export port, and we also handle significant sugar volumes at Lucinda Port, so we are acutely aware of the importance of protecting the agriculture industry and its significant contribution to the region’s economy.”

Member for Mundingburra Les Walker said it was fantastic to see this partnership being formed to help protect the region from a potentially deadly pest.

“We want to make sure Townsville and Queensland remains Varroa mite free which is why this project is important,” Mr Walker said.

“Innovative ideas like this are essential because we know places like ports are potential entry points for pests.”

Townsville’s Purple Hive Project installation comes in the lead up to World Bee Day on Saturday and is a first for Queensland, following the deployment of the Purple Hive in Victoria and one in New Zealand.

One in every three mouthfuls of food consumed in Australia is dependent on honey bee pollination. Bega Group launched their B honey brand to help support the local honey industry while teaming up with companies including Vimana Tech to develop the Purple Hive Project.

“Following the detection of Varroa destructor in NSW, embracing new technologies like the artificially intelligent Purple Hive to detect the mite in real-time has never been more critical,” Vimana Tech Chief Technology Officer Vignesh Murugan said.

“From today, the Purple Hive is now actively monitoring for Varroa destructor at the Port of Townsville in real-time,” Mr Murugan said.

“The work on the Purple Hive Project continues thanks to the investment from Bega Group’s B honey and Vimana Tech, and we couldn’t be happier for the support of the Port of Townsville and Biosecurity Queensland for proactively installing this technology.”

Fifth generation beekeeper and Purple Hive Project Advisor Ian Cane, who has worked on the Purple Hive Project since its launch, said the hive would enable Townsville to quickly detect and address any potential Varroa destructor threat.