Honey bee and pollination continuity strategy

Publication details

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, May 2011

The objective of the strategy is to have arrangements in place that allow the honey bee industry, crop industries responsive to honey bee pollination and governments to prepare for, and respond quickly and efficiently to, the establishment of varroa in Australia so that effects on the honey bee industry and pollination of responsive crops are minimised.

Following widespread consultation during 2010 and early 2011, the Strategy was released in May 2011 and is available here.

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Scope of the Strategy

This strategy recommended actions to aid the long-term control and management of varroa in Australia, should it be decided that eradication of an incursion is not feasible. Varroa is the priority because it is a serious pest and the exotic honey bee pest most likely to arrive and establish here.

Implementation

The work identified in the strategy to prepare for a possible future establishment of varroa in Australia is pursued through a number of programmes.

The department provided Plant Health Australia (PHA) with seed funding of $75,000 over two years (2011-12 and 2012-13) to coordinate, monitor and report on implementation of the strategy. PHA established a management committee, comprised of government and industry representatives, to assist with the process.

In 2013 the department provided the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC) with funding of $73,700 to develop an overarching National Honey bee and Pollination Biosecurity Management Strategy (honey bee biosecurity management strategy). This overarching strategy carries on the work of the varroa continuity strategy and is being implemented through AHBIC’s National Bee Biosecurity Program, the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program and research initiatives such as projects funded through the Rural R&D for Profit program and Hort Innovation’s pollination investment fund.

The establishment of the BeeAware website, the development of emergency use permits for the treatment of varroa should it arrive in Australia and release of a bee biosecurity film series that provides information about varroa identification and control are all examples of successful preparedness initiatives.

BeeAware website

The strategy recommended that information and training materials on the management of honey bee pests and diseases and crop pollination be provided to beekeepers, farmers and the public. The BeeAware website was created to deliver on this recommendation.

The website contains an extensive range of information about exotic and established pests and diseases of honey bees, and helps beekeepers to identify and respond to these pest threats. It also contains information about the pollination of crops and how beekeepers and growers can work together to provide and receive best practice pollination services.

Registration of chemicals to control varroa

The strategy recommended that industry and government should progress the provisional registration of chemicals to treat varroa.

In the case of an emergency response to an incursion of varroa, the department holds emergency use permits for Bayvarol (flumethrin), Apistan (tau-fluvalinate), Apiguard (thymol gel) and Mite away Quick Strips (formic acid). These products are also permitted to be used in the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program. Apiguard has also been provisionally registered for use to control varroa mite should it establish in Australia.

Improving the preparedness of crop industries

The strategy recommended that farmers and beekeepers work together to investigate the benefits of using commercial paid pollination services and develop arrangements to lessen the impact of potential border and regional control measures that may limit the movement of hives.

The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC)-Hort Innovation Honey Bee and Pollination Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) programme promotes the use of commercial pollination services among crop industries through a range of methods. An ABARES’ survey of the honey bee industry found the proportion of beekeepers providing pollination services increased from 28 per cent to 44 per cent between 2006 and 2015, reflecting growing demand from crop industries for pollination services in recent years.

To analyse the potential effects that state and regional quarantine responses may have on hive movements and the availability of pollination services the Honey Bee and Pollination RD&E programme funded the project “Model for industry planning and preparedness for an incursion of varroa mite”. The project, conducted by PHA in partnership with a number of horticulture industries, included a report, published in 2013 and a workshop delivered in Mildura in June 2014.

In June 2016 Hort Innovation launched a significant pollination research investment fund to increase crop quality and yields through more effective pollination and alternate pollinators. Supported with Australian Government funding, the fund comprises multiple projects being delivered in partnership with co-investors such as research institutions, government agencies or international and commercial enterprises. More information about research currently underway is available on Hort Innovation’s Pollination Fund webpage.

Statement of research and development priorities

The strategy recommended that research organisations should coordinate their research, development and extension efforts and focus on priority issues.

On 17 February 2014 the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, launched a statement of research and development priorities that will help protect Australia’s honey bee and crop industries in the event that varroa mite becomes established in Australia.

The statement of research and development priorities outlines a set of government priorities that can be used as guidance for scientists and organisations involved in honey bee, varroa mite and crop pollination research to develop research proposals that will aim to protect the industry.

The statement informed the five-year strategic plan for the RIRDC-Hort Innovation Honey Bee and Pollination RD&E programme.

In July 2016 a consortium of partners, led by RIRDC, was granted $5.255 million from Round two of the Rural R&D for Profit programme for the project ‘Securing Pollination for More Productive Agriculture: Guidelines for effective pollinator management and stakeholder adoption’. The project will realise significant productivity and profitability gains for farmers by improving yield and rates of pollination. The project will assess the contribution of pollinators to nine crops, re-establish native vegetation to support pollinator food and nesting resources, and use new technologies to communicate the findings to crop farmers.

Frequently asked questions

Answers to frequently asked questions about honey bees, crop pollination and varroa mite.

For any further information on the Strategy or the research and development statement please email honey bees.