Enhancing Australia’s bee pest surveillance to aid food security

Enhancements to the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program have delivered a range of valuable outcomes to support the health of Australia’s bees.

Head of biosecurity, at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Lyn O’Connell, said the enhancements will help prevent incursions of exotic bee pests and pest bees.

“Bee pollination supports our crop industries and food security, so we need to have strong biosecurity measures in place to protect the health of our bees,” O’Connell said.

“These enhancements will improve our surveillance, diagnostics, preparedness and response arrangements for key bee pests and viruses.

Forty upgraded catchboxes are being deployed in remote and restricted high-risk areas for pest bees, to allow workers to capture and inspect bee swarms and expand surveillance capacity.

“We are also investigating better options for Asian honey bee specific catchboxes, to improve our targeted surveillance for this significant pest bee,” O’Connell said.

Targeted floral sweep netting will be implemented at high-risk ports for Asian honey bees and other pest bees. It is seen as a tool to catch exotic bees and detect potential incursions.

Extensive surveillance has been undertaken for bee viruses of significance for Australia, including Acute Bee Paralysis Virus, Deformed Wing Virus, Slow Paralysis Virus.

“No exotic viruses were found, demonstrating the health of Australia’s bees. Ongoing surveillance will be undertaken to support evidence-based proof of absence for these viruses,” O’Connell said.

“We are building national diagnostic skills across laboratories to support our preparedness and response activities for these key bee viruses.

“Our response to potential incursions will also be boosted through a new electronic portal that will allow surveillance data to be captured and shared in real-time.

Biosecurity plays a vital role in supporting the health of Australia’s bees and these enhancements will help ensure the measures the country has in place protect bees now and into the future.

The National Bee Pest Surveillance Program is jointly funded by the department, Australian Honeybee Industry Council, Hort Innovation and Grain Producers Australia.

Australian Made supports bee industry

The Australian Made Campaign is reminding consumers to support local beekeepers and manufacturers by buying authentically Australian bee products this World Bee Day.

“When you buy Australian Made bee products you are supporting thousands of Australians at all stages of the supply chain, from the local beekeepers to the bee product manufacturers and retailers.

It’s been a tough year for Aussie farmers and manufacturers, particularly those in regional areas affected by fire, drought and floods, so it is important to show our support. Buying Australian-made is one of the best ways to ensure the bee industry thrives in Australia. There are more bee products than just honey, Australian produces a range of beeswax candles, food wraps, skincare and health supplements,” said Australian Made Campaign chief executive, Ben Lazzaro.

In 2017, the United Nations declared 20 May as World Bee Day to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development.

According to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, there are approximately 13,000 registered beekeepers in Australian, producing between 20-25,000 tonnes of honey each year and contributing an estimated $100 million per annum to the local economy.

“It is important to educate people and raise awareness for bees and the significant role they play in the health of our ecosystem. It has been fantastic to see awareness of the plight of bees increase in the last few years, however more can be done to support bees and the beekeeping industry,” said owner and founder of Apiary Made, Celeste Faltyn.

“As individuals, there are a number of things that we can do to assist the survival of our bee populations…One thing that we all can do is to show support for local Australian beekeepers, buying local has tremendous positive impact on the Australian industry. Beekeeping can be a hard game sometimes, just like all forms of farming, by supporting local manufacturers you are helping the beekeepers and producers in our community to continue defend our local bee populations.

There are also lots of little things that you can do to support the bees in your own backyard. Research the chemicals and pesticides you are using in your garden, leave little bowls of water out for them on really hot days, plant different flower species that blossom year-round and letting your herbs and veggies go to flower so the bees can feed on the nectar and pollen, these are all small things that you can do right now to aid their survival,” Celeste said.