“More than 65 percent of all the crops produced in Australia in the horticulture sector alone are dependent on pollination, so it is vital we protect our native bee colonies,” stressed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce, on announcing the government’s investment.
“The program’s primary objective is to be an early-warning system for new threats before they establish, to limit the scale and cost of eradication and to support Australia’s ‘pest-free’ status, which is vital for trade,” said Minister Joyce.
Stopping an Asian pest-bee invasion
“The National Bee Pest Surveillance Program delivers a range of surveillance activities at likely entry points of bee pests and pest bees, like Asian honey bees, throughout Australia,” Minister Joyce explained.
“This includes virus diagnostics and surveillance around a range of bee viruses that are exotic to Australia; increased Asian honey-bee surveillance; deploying improved remote catch-boxes in remote locations or areas of high risk; and the trial of Asian hornet traps at key ports,” he said.
“It is important we are aware of biosecurity risks as early as possible, to help identify and manage pest or disease incursions.”
Asian honey bees are a particular threat, Minister Joyce said, as the species is a natural host for varroa mite.
Indeed, bees carrying the dreaded varroa were found in Townsville in June 2016.
“But we are winning this fight, with no new detections since July 2016, following significant investment by the Commonwealth and states and territories as well a number of industries which are reliant on pollination to survive,” Minister Joyce asserted.
“This program supports Australia’s $101 million honey bee industry and all the industries dependent on pollination for crop production,” he said.
In 2014–15, the gross value of production from the nation’s honey-bee industry was estimated at $101 million; and research has found that native pollinators alone contribute an around $2.5 billion in crop pollination across Australia.
To find out more about the National Bee and Pest Surveillance Program, program, visit the Plant Health Australia website.