Honey bee and pollination continuity strategy

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

Objective of the Strategy

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.

Scope of the Strategy

This strategy recommends 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 Australian Government Department of Agriculture 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). The overarching honey bee biosecurity management strategy incorporates the outcomes of varroa continuity strategy and is being implemented through AHBIC’s National Bee Biosecurity Program.

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) and Apiguard (thymol gel). All three chemicals can be used to treat hives for varroa mite.

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 Corporations (RIRDC) Honey Bee and Pollination Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) program promotes the use of commercial pollination services among crop industries through a range of methods. An ABARES survey of the honey bee industry in 2015-16 will assess the use of pollination services by crop industries and how this has changed since the last survey in 2006-07.

Fruit, vegetables and nuts are among the most responsive crops to honey bee pollination. Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited (HIA Ltd) funded the project “Model for industry planning and preparedness for an incursion of varroa mite” to analyse the potential effects that state and regional quarantine responses may have on hive movements and the availability of pollination services. The project included a report, published in 2013 and a workshop delivered in Mildura in June 2014.

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 state​ment 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 RIRDC’s five-year strategic plan for its Honey Bee and Pollination RD&E Program, which is co-funded by HIA Ltd.

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.