A 50-kilometre biosecurity zone was introduced to eradicate the pest, which is known as the Varroa Mite and can kill entire honey bee colonies.

The mites are not harmful for Australia's native bees, but the country's honey industry relies primarily on non-native species.
The mites are not harmful for Australia's native bees, but the country's honey industry relies primarily on non-native species. (AP Archive)

Beehives in southeast Australia have gone under lockdown as authorities race to prevent the spread of a potentially devastating parasite plague.

The lockdown was imposed on Monday when the Varroa Mite, external parasites that attack and feed on honey bees, was detected at the Port of Newcastle.

This prompted authorities in New South Wales to throw up a strict 50-kilometre (31-mile) biosecurity zone.

To stop the spread, keepers inside the biosecurity zone will not be able to move hives, bees, honey or comb until further notice.

The state Department of Primary Industries said the measures aimed at "ensuring we eradicate the parasite".

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'Critically important'

Australia is said to be the only major honey-producing country where the Varroa Mite is not endemic.

The tiny red-brown mites can kill entire colonies, although not those of Australia's native bees.

The country's honey industry, however, relies primarily on non-native species.

"It is critically important that beekeepers in the Newcastle area do not move any hives or equipment in or out of the area," said the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council.

"Moving hives away will only further exacerbate the issue and make eradication efforts futile."

Aside from the honey industry, bees are essential in pollinating countless plants.

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Source: AFP