Bee informed, it’s Australian Pollinator Week

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It’s Australian Pollinator Week, and to celebrate we are showcasing the six decades of research, development and extension (RD&E) projects that have contributed to the humble, yet vital honey bee and pollination industry.
Pollination is critical to the production of many of our favourite foods and Australia’s food security, with 65% of horticultural and agricultural crops dependent on honey bees for pollination – making up one in every three mouthfuls of food we eat.

The industry has come a long way since 1962 when commercial beekeepers first contributed to an industry levy. There has been a 10-fold increase in recreational beekeeping, as well as major increases in commercial beekeeping, with approximately 530,000 commercially managed hives across Australia that are available to deliver paid pollination services. In 2019, the almond industry hired 180,000 hives for crop pollination.

The growth and advancements in the honey bee and pollination industry can be attributed in part to the 60 years of RD&E projects funded through the honey bee levy, which was collated into a compendium of research earlier this year – Bee Informed.

AgriFutures Honey Bee and Pollination Program Manager, Annelies McGaw, said the development of Bee Informed was crucial to ensure that earlier work that was not digitised would not be lost.

“Collating the industry’s years of research was critical to document what we know and what we need to learn to ensure the longevity of honey bees and pollination in Australia,” Annelies said.

“Projects we are investing in today like the Optimisation and Evaluation of an External Trap as a Mass Trapping and Monitoring Device for Small Hive Beetles project have built upon the historic RD&E projects detailed in Bee Informed,” Annelies said.

Bee Informed contains a whopping 280 projects investigating pollination and a range of other key topics relating to pests and disease, nutrition, genetic improvement, floral resources, off-farm issues, and communication and extension. The publication outlines the diversity, breadth and purpose of the research undertaken over the years, the outcomes of each project, the implications for the industry, and the key benefits for commercial apiarists.

“Without bees, fruits, seeds, nuts and vegetables would not make it from the paddock to our plates,” Annelies said.

“We want to raise awareness about these unique pollinators so that we can secure the pollination of Australia’s crops and continue to build a brighter future for our bees, and also celebrate the many years of research and collaborations that have helped to build the united and resilient industry we have today,” Annelies said.

“This is especially important given the challenges the industry has faced over the past few years with bushfires, floods, and the recent incursion of Varroa mite having devastating impacts on hives, honey production and the nation’s horticultural and agricultural sectors.”

AgriFutures Honey Bee and Pollination Program is continuing to invest in research that reflects and responds to industry needs and concerns. Current focus areas of the program are:

  • nutrition best practice and disease interaction
  • effective pollination strategies
  • hive performance
  • industry capacity for research and leadership
  • benefits of honey and developing chain traceability
  • the role of floral resources

Click here to download Bee Informed for free or purchase a hard copy

Quick Info – Pollination projects in Bee Informed

The European honey bee and its use of native and exotic floral plantings (pg. 344 in Bee Informed)

The project assessed the pollen collected from honey bee hives, analysing the foraging preferences and diets of honey bees. Findings highlighted that honey bees require extra floral resources not only during colder months, when fewer plants are in flower, but especially during spring and provided a range of recommendations for farmers to support stronger honey bees populations including providing a range of extra floral resources in cropping systems and retaining and restoring native vegetation on and surrounding farms.

Bushfire Recovery Plan: Understanding what needs to be done to ensure the honey bee and pollination industry recovers from the 2019-20 bushfire crisis (pg. 334 in Bee Informed)

Industry consultation was conducted to determine how to best coordinate government support to the industry. A key outcome was the development of a six-point plan to support the industry’s recovery over five years, with the following focus areas:

Direct hive feeding and pollination support

  • Fee waivers
  • Levy supplements
  • Industry sustainability research
  • Communications initiatives, and
  • Industry outreach and engagement.

Verifying the origin of Australian honeys by analysis of their pollen content (pg. 313 in Bee Informed)

This project compared the pollen content of raw unblended honey samples from across Australia to the pollen content of honeys produced in other countries. The project found that the pollen content of most Australian honeys is distinctive and that pollen analyses would allow Australian honeys to be identified and certified as produced in Australia, which could lead to a potential increase in the market value of Australian honey and deter fraudulent labelling of honey as ‘Australian’.

Facts about Honey Bee and Pollination in Australia

The Australian honey bee industry supports 1,800 highly skilled commercial beekeepers and approximately 530,000 commercially managed hives delivering paid pollination services.

  • On average, honey production in Australia, including commercial and recreational production, is 37,000 tonnes.
  • In a typical year 70 per cent of Australian honey is produced from native flora.
  • The main honey production period is from October to March each year and August to October is the major pollination season.

Want more facts about honey bee and pollination in Australia? Click here to read ‘The extraordinary honey bee and its impact on the food we eat’

For more information on the AgriFutures Honey Bee and Pollination Program click here 

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