Framework for assessing risk to ecosystem for honey bees

GHD Pty Ltd

  • Project code: PRJ-010299

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Saturday, July 30, 2016

  • Project completion date: Friday, April 28, 2017

  • National Priority: HBE-Improve hive productivity with innovative pest and disease control, feeding, breeding, and automation solutions


In preparing the Compatibility of Management Objectives on Public Lands with Beekeeping (PRJ-009102) report for RIRDC, GHD identified that access to public lands by apiarists is being increasingly restricted through a perception by land mangers that managed bee hives represent an ecological risk to conservation values. As public lands contain the majority of forested areas on which beekeepers rely for honey production, a decline in access to these areas based on a blanket perception will have a significant impact on the industry, without necessarily a corresponding significant ecological gain.
The management of some public lands can be the subject to considerable public interest and stakeholder scrutiny, and as such public land managers can often fall-back to a very conservative risk adverse approach based on the precautionary principal. This can apply to a number of activities including the bee-industry, where licences on parks and reserves are being phased out and not replaced by sites in alternate areas. The difficulty for public land managers is that they do not have a risk framework which they can use to assess the compatibility of bee keeping with the objectives of the reserves they are managing and values within it. Without this robust framework to assist decision making, it is difficult for them to justify a decision to retain, relocate or close sites. This project will develop a National risk framework for land managers to use to support decision making in relation to retaining, relocating, closing or creating new apiary sites.


Honey Bee

Research Organisation

GHD Pty Ltd

Objective Summary

The major objective of the project is to provide a robust decision support tool, in the form of a National risk framework, to assist public land managers assess proposals to create, relocate, retain or close apiary sites on public lands. According to the International Standard ISO 31000, risk is the “effect of uncertainty on objectives” and “an effect is a positive or negative deviation from what is expected”. Public land managers may not necessarily fully appreciate the physical and biological functioning of managed beehives, other than they are another exotic species that may potentially impact a conservation reserve in some way. This lack of understanding is the ‘uncertainty’ component of the ISO31000 risk definition, and where there is great uncertainty about what managed bees may or may not do, a prohibition-based approach is likely to be adopted.
The risk framework developed for this project can be used as a tool to increase understanding of public land managers. It can step managers through the mechanics of bee hive management and describe potential risk factors. This may include how far bees forage, how to limit swarming (such as the use of younger queen bees), or potential sensitive receptors to bees. This structured approach will create a greater understanding of the industry by land managers, and enable a more informed and robust appraisal of the risk at a site specific level. The framework will be presented in a user-friendly format, which will be simple to understand and easy for land managers to apply.