Australia is the only populated continent in the world that has not been impacted by Varroa destructor, but its potential arrival in Australia is a very real threat. If Varroa destructor were to establish itself here in Australia, it could have a devastating affect on our honey and pollination dependant industries.
Honey bees play a significant role in the pollination of food crops in Australia – some crops are almost entirely reliant on honey bees for pollination. The Varroa mite, which has crippled bee colonies around the world, is threatening the viability of the Australian beekeeping industry.
It is estimated that the healthy population of honey bees, and the pollination services they provide could be reduced by 90-100 per cent, with the potential to impact producers of crops such as almonds and apples who rely on the pollination services that bees provide.
It is estimated that one in three mouthfuls of food that Australians consume relies on bee pollination.
The Varroa mite is a tiny mite that attaches itself to honey bees and honey bee brood to the detriment of the honey bee and the honey bee colony. The Varroa mite is also known to transmit viruses amongst honey bees which can cause defects to the honey bee.
The Purple Hive Project has been developed to monitor and send real time alerts to beekeepers and biosecurity if a Varroa mite is detected, allowing them to quarantine the hive and remove the Varroa mite in order to help protect Australia.
The “Purple Hive” is a solar-powered artificial intelligence device, trained to detect Varroa destructor in real-time. The intention is the Purple Hive will help prevent the spread of Varroa destructor if it were to make its way into Australia.
The Purple Hive uses 360 degree camera technology, which uses an algorithm to observe each individual bee entering the Purple Hive as it looks to determine if Varroa destructor is present.
If Varroa destructor is detected, a real-time alert will be sent which will allow for the hive to be quarantined to stop the spread of the Varroa destructor.
Currently, beekeepers manually check their hives to see if the Varroa mite is present, this is a painstakingly manual process. The intention of the Purple Hive Project is to help provide a real-time solution for our beekeepers through the use of the Purple Hive.
Surveillance for early detection of Varroa destructor remains crucial to protecting the health of the honey industry and Australian agriculture more broadly.
Whilst the Purple Hive is still in development, the long-term vision is that Purple Hives will be placed at high risk entry points around Australia to assist with early detection and monitoring.
The vision is that the Purple Hive Project will help protect Australia from the Varroa mite to try and ensure that the Australian honey industry, as well as honey bee pollination dependent industries, are viable for generations to come.