IT'S the tiny mite that's no bigger than a sesame seed - yet this ugly bloodsucker could devastate our honeybee industry.
Varroa mites attach themselves to bees and drain their blood, leaving them more susceptible to disease. They are one of the main reasons for a worrying decline in colonies worldwide, and researchers said Australian bees must be bred to resist them - or the industry could be in peril.
The University of Sydney research, in collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, found none of the seven types of domestic bees tested had any resistance to the mite, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Tests revealed that after just four months of exposure to the pest, 44 per cent of all the Australian honeybee lines had died. With mite-resistant honeybees, there was a 4 per cent mortality rate.
Professor Ben Oldroyd said Australia needed to act because it was not a matter of if the mites arrived on our shores, but when.
Besides honey, major Australian crops like almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries and cucumbers rely heavily on bees for pollination.
"It is largely accepted that varroa will eventually reach Australia and the findings from our research give us an indication of just how severe an impact this pest will have on our honeybee populations," Prof Oldroyd said.
"Because Australian honeybees have never been exposed to varroa the chances of them being susceptible are much greater. If the Australian honeybee and honeybee-dependent crops are to have any chance of minimising the impact of varroa when it arrives then it is critical varroa-resistant honeybees are bred for the Australian environment - and urgently."
Read more at the Daily Telegraph