19 July 2011
In January 2011, the Asian Honey Bee National Management Group (AHB NMG) formed the view that eradication of the Asian honeybee was no longer technically feasible.
This decision followed majority advice from the Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests (the Consultative Committee) on the difficulty of locating nests and destroying them due to the bees’ rapid breeding rate, tendency to frequently swarm and relocate, to travel long distances (particularly with assisted movement on vehicles and trains), and the limitations of current surveillance methods and terrain access. A minority view was that more information was needed to assess whether Asian honeybees was eradicable or not.
This decision did not mean that activities against the bee would cease.
An Asian Honeybee Coordination Group, comprising government and industry representatives, has been working to identify the best way forward to control the Asian honey bee and minimise its impact.
On 31 March 2011, the Senate Rural Affairs and Transport Reference Committee requested that the Consultative Committee reconvene to reconsider its technical advice.
The Consultative Committee met on 7 April and 15 April but again failed to reach consensus on whether the Asian honeybee could be eradicated from Queensland.
The AHB NMG met on 12 May 2011 to consider the outcomes of the Consultative Committee’s deliberations. The NMG determined by majority vote that there was no change on the substantial issue of eradicability, but were unanimous in their support for the work of the Coordination Group in relation to containment and ongoing management of the bees.
On 20 May 2011, the Australian Government committed a further $2 million to support a national pilot program aimed at creating an ongoing solution to the management of Asian honeybees.
The AHB Coordination Group is currently considering a draft containment program which sets out activities over two years to assist affected industries, the community and local government to manage the bees. The program also includes a range of communication and community engagement activities to ensure the public and industries are well informed about the bees and how best to deal with them. Governments will continue to provide information to the public through websites and hotline numbers.
The AHB NMG comprises the chief executive officers of the national and state/territory departments of agriculture and primary industries across Australia, representatives of Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC), Plant Health Australia (PHA), and is chaired by the Commonwealth.
The Consultative Committee comprises Commonwealth and state/territory plant health managers, and industry representatives.
The AHB Coordination Group includes senior representatives of Commonwealth and state/territory agencies, including the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), PHA, AHBIC and a number of pollination-reliant industries.
Further advice on Asian honeybees can be found on the Outbreak website and on Biosecurity Queensland's website.