PROTECTING pollination to safeguard food security was the theme of World Bee Day on May 20 and is central to research being undertaken by a team of Agriculture Victoria (AV) researchers.

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

An uncontained incursion of varroa mite and associated bee viruses could cost producers and consumers of pollination dependent crops up to $1.3 billion over 30 years.

Dr Linda Zheng is undertaking research to combine the two world-first loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests, the varroa mite test developed by her colleague Dr Mark Blacket, and the deformed wing virus test she developed.

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

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.

Neither the deformed wing virus or varroa mite are present in Australia.