More help on the way for pollination 20 Jul 2012

Bees and the pollination services they provide are under threat, and new research is being funded to defend our borders, update biosecurity plans and make sure we are as prepared as possible for if and when a significant bee pest is detected in Australia.

An estimated 65 per cent of agricultural production in Australia relies on honeybees for pollination, yet there is little awareness of their important role because of the incredible job done by wild European honeybees.

A new round of funding has been announced by the Pollination Program, a research partnership between the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) and Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL).

Projects beginning this month are as diverse as biosecurity, smarter use of pesticides and new methods of pest management that will all contribute to the ongoing effort to protect our bees and prepare the apiary and agricultural industries for a possible exotic pest incursion.

Gerald Martin, Chairman of the Pollination R&D Advisory Committee, says it’s essential to continue encouraging and funding innovative and novel research.

“The impact of an exotic pest or disease incursion is considered to be a significant risk to the beekeeping industry – and therefore the industries reliant on pollination to produce fruit, vegetables and grain,” Mr Martin said.

“One of the key threats to bees is the Varroa mite, and much of the Program’s activity is focussed on this pest. If Varroa reaches Australian shores and become entrenched it’s expected to cost $72.3 million per year over 30 years.

“This is not just from lower honey production but the impact of the loss of pollination by both managed and wild European honeybees on a range of fruits, vegetables and pastures,” Mr Martin said.

The objective of the Pollination Program is to secure the pollination of Australia's horticultural and agricultural crops into the future on a sustainable and profitable basis.
More details about the projects being funded by the program, and their results, can be found at

The new projects being funded in 2011-12 include:

  • Biosecurity implementation to strengthen Australia's honey bee and pollination responsive industries. The Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Plan will be updated and a Hive Biosecurity Manual developed along with a training module for bee keepers.

  • Pesticide and Bees booklet. This involves developing a web based booklet that identifies crops, pesticides used on them, and pesticides harmful to bees, with the aim of ensuring primary producers, apiarists and those involved with the application of pesticides are aware of the management strategies they can implement to minimise the negative effects on bee populations.

  • Remote sensing of beehives to improve surveillance. Existing electronic hive monitoring systems available in Australia will be evaluated, followed by the develoment of a proof-of-concept hive sensing system with wireless technology that will automatically detect when a swarm enters an empty ‘bait’ hive.

  • Screened bottom boards. This will investigate existing designs in Australia and New Zealand and compare over 12 months the performance of hives with screened bottom boards with hives with regular bottom boards.