Plan ‘bee’ on the agenda

August 21, 2013

From: Queensland Country Life

AUSTRALIA’S almond industry is researching the annual movement of tens of thousands of beehives around the country, to help plan for the possible arrival of the devastating Varroa mite.

The two-year research project is investigating the impact of a potential Varroa incursion on hive movements, and the effect that any movement restrictions would have on the ability of Australia’s horticulture industries to continue paid pollination.

It will investigate the effect of an incursion on paid pollination, and what strategies can be implemented to ensure industries dependent on pollination are not severely impacted.

The project will also review what movement restrictions might eventuate and provide contingency planning for alternative pollination services that might be used to help manage a reduction in hive availability.

The project is being managed by Plant Health Australia and funded by the Pollination Program, a partnership between the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) and the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

With two thirds of Australia’s food industries dependent on honeybee pollination, a Varroa incursion could have a significant impact, according to Gerald Martin, chair of the Pollination R&D Advisory Committee.

“Australia is lucky to have a massive population of wild European honeybees, but Varroa is likely to wipe out many of these and end the free pollination services they provide,” Mr Martin said.

“That will make paid pollination even more critical for sustaining many of our crops and industries.?

“From mid-July, beekeepers that provide pollination services transport thousands of hives across Australia, with some travelling as far as 1800 kilometres.

“Timing is critical to ensure that hives are in place before flowering begins so that the pollination services are available at the optimum time.

“The almond industry, in particular, is one of the most experienced when it comes to recognising the value of paying for pollination services.

“As the almond industry is 100 per cent dependent on bee pollination to produce almonds, every year beekeepers will organise for more than three billion bees to be moved to the orchards.

“Many other industries are dependent on pollination as well, including the apple, pear, avocado, vegetable, cherry, prune, melon, summer-fruit and onion industries, so in the pollination season hives are constantly on the move.?

“If Varroa does enter Australia, quarantine requirements by state and territory governments may result in hive movement restrictions in order to try and stop the pest spreading.”

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