Back to Top

Bee survey 2022

The honey bee population on Norfolk Island is unique from a pest and disease perspective. No other honey bee population in the world has fewer pests and pathogens. This important finding was confirmed in 2022 by a survey by Dr John Roberts of CSIRO. The report recommended that ongoing surveillance in Norfolk Island as part of the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program be resourced. Read the report here. The report can also be found on the Department’s website: Norfolk Island bee pest survey 2021–2022. The Department has summarised the results as follows:


“Honey bees are an important part of the ecosystem and culture of Norfolk Island. Honey bees support food security through reliable pollination services as well as producing honey and hive products. Having access to up-to-date information on bee pests and diseases is critical to maintaining the Island’s bee biosecurity.

In December 2022 and April 2023, Dr John Roberts visited Norfolk Island to conduct surveys of the honey bee population. Under the guidance of Norfolk Island’s beekeepers, Dr Roberts collected samples from bees, honey and hives to test for pests and diseases. He sampled 67 bee colonies (approximately 50% of all managed colonies) and inspected and tested for 16 pests and diseases.

The key findings of the survey are:

  • Since the last 2012–14 survey, no new honey bee pests or diseases were detected in Norfolk Island honey bees.
  • All previously reported pests and diseases were detected, including
    • high prevalence and infection levels of the gut parasite, Nosema ceranae
    • high prevalence of Lake Sinai virus, a common bee virus group with no known disease
    • low detection of the lesser wax moth (Achroia gresella), a minor hive pest.
  • The honey bee population on Norfolk Island is unique from a pest and disease perspective. No other honey bee population in the world has fewer pests and pathogens.

The report made three recommendations:

  • Permit only commercial importation of certified irradiated honey into Norfolk Island.
  • Resource ongoing surveillance in Norfolk Island as part of the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program.
  • Registration for all Norfolk Island beekeepers and encouraging beekeepers to perform regular hive inspections in line with Australia’s Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice.


Anson Bay Volunteers

Anson Bay has to be one of the loveliest beaches on Norfolk, which is really saying something! Sometimes though, a combination of wind, tide and swell can toss up large quantities of ocean flotsam, much of it plastic, marring the otherwise stunning beauty of this little bay.

Click here for photos of Anson Bay beach, the Anson Bay stalwarts, Headstone tip and samples of the rubbish.

Since June 2021, a small group of concerned island residents has been going down to Anson Bay, usually twice a week, to clear the beach of these unsightly deposits.


Some of the plastic seems to have washed in from the shipping lanes, but most is domestic waste which has clearly made its way round from the Waste Management depot at Headstone, with the most common items found being the white or blue seals from inside the caps of wine and Coca-Cola bottles.


In the early days of the clean-up, an astonishing amount was collected each time the group ventured down – 23 kg on the worst day, and generally upwards of 10kg. By November 2021, the quantity of plastic had diminished significantly, with 3 kg or less being the new norm. This may be due to differing marine conditions, or to there being less plastic in the waters around Norfolk Island as new waste management practices are implemented by the Norfolk Island Regional Council. It is proposed to conduct seasonal comparisons from year to year.


To encourage participation of visitors who come to the beach, Council has given permission to place beside the rubbish bins, a box containing a couple of reusable bags made of shadecloth. The group plans to monitor the bins for evidence that others are sharing the task of keeping Anson Bay plastic-free.

Quarantine (pests and diseases) Survey 2012-14

In 2012-2014 the Department of Agriculture conducted a comprehensive survey of the plant and animal pests and diseases of the Island, coordinated by resident Glynn Maynard. The report is publicly available.

Supporting data

The data amassed during the survey have been published open access as appendices to the following paper:

Maynard, G V, B J Leschi and S F Malfroy. 2018. “Norfolk island quarantine survey 2012-2014 – a comprehensive assessment of an isolated subtropical island“. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales Vol. 140: 7-243.


Bounteous Bestowal: The Economic History of Norfolk Island

The substantial capital stock accumulated over the colonial period largely became a legacy for the Pitcairn descendants of the Bounty mutineers, who were resettled on Norfolk in 1856. They created a subsistence-based economy which remained essentially unchanged until externally introduced structural and institutional changes around the turn of the century forged much closer links with the international economy. The upshot was a phase of highly unstable export-oriented growth which was eventually curtailed by World War II. The immediate post-war period was one of erratic economic change and declining population, with the economy lacking any strong and sustained growth stimulus until tourism assumed this role in the early 1960s. Subsequent expansion, strengthened temporarily by the use of the Island as a tax haven, transformed Norfolk into a capital-exporting, developed mini-economy displaying a high degree of affluence in per capita terms. Admittedly, this economy has also displayed instability, inequality and continued reliance on Australian financial support; and it faces the threat of environmental constraints impeding future growth.

The insightful book by Emeritus Professor Malcolm Treadgold explaining these dynamics is available under open access conditions from the Australian National University:

Bee security

Norfolk Island has an extremely healthy European bee population. The first European bees recorded on Norfolk Island were in the 1840s when the convict settlement was operational.

The Norfolk bees are free from European and American Foulbrood and we have no hive beetles or Varroa mite. The spores for European and American Foulbrood are able to survive in untreated honey and on bee equipment for at least 80 years. No importation of used bee equipment (which includes clothing and shoes) is allowed into Norfolk Island.

Unfortunately since 2016 (when Australia assumed control of Norfolk Island) 750g of untreated honey for personal use is allowed to be imported by anybody with the one proviso that it is “not to be fed to bees.”

To keep this bee population safe we requested that Norfolk Island become part of the Australian Sentinel Hive programme. As part of that programme we have set up sentinel hives at all the first points of entry on Norfolk Island. If there is an incursion of a pest or disease then these hives hopefully will be the first affected and that will give us a fighting chance to treat/eradicate any invader.

We monitor the sentinel hives on the first of each month and use different techniques to check for a variety of pests/diseases and this information is then  immediately passed on to Plant Health Australia who collate all the information from all the sentinel hives scattered around first points of entry on mainland Australia.

We have put in a submission  to the Commonwealth of Australia to have Norfolk Island declared a Bee Sanctuary but the response from the Commonwealth is that such a declaration is a State function and as Norfolk Island is a Territory not a State no sanctuary is possible.


Merv Buffett

Clare McPherson