Bird vomit is being used to help save Townsville’s bees from the threat of varroa mite.
Bird vomit is being used to help save Townsville’s bees from the threat of varroa mite.

Bird vomit helping to protect bees

BIRD vomit is being used to help save Townsville's bees from the threat of varroa mite.

Regurgitated food from Townsville's rainbow bee-eaters is the latest weapon in Biosecurity Queensland's fight again the pest.

Varroa mite was found on Asian honey bees in Townsville in 2016, sparking an eradication program, with the last Asian honey bee detected in the city in November 2016.

Biosecurity Queensland's National Varroa Mite Eradication Program leader Stephen Anderson said the bird's diet was used to detect Asian honey bees.

"Rainbow bee-eaters love to eat bees but are unable to digest their wings which are later regurgitated as a pellet," he said. "Since June 2016, Biosecurity Queensland officers have collected more than 40,000 pellets which were subsequently analysed in a laboratory. As the pellets can contain hundreds of bees, the analysis gives a valuable indication of the type of bees in the surrounding area."

Mr Anderson said although no Asian honey bee wings had been found in the regurgitated pellets for two years, the onset of warmer and wetter weather would lead to increased bee activity and bee swarms.



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