Everyone plays a role in protecting our bees 02 Aug 2011

Experts agree that if the deadly pest of honeybees, Varroa, arrives in Australia it will have a devastating impact on backyard vegetable gardens, fruit trees and flowers; not just commercial agriculture.

Australia is one of the last countries free of the mite, which has wreaked havoc across the globe. It is likely to decimate wild honeybee colonies, leaving home gardens struggling to produce many fruits and vegetables.

Anecdotal evidence suggests there are already fewer bees in our urban environments as a result of other bee pests such as small hive beetle, and a survey is being conducted to help collect hard data about bee numbers in urban areas and the
impact of any decline on the pollination of our food.

The survey is being conducted by Dr Diana Leemon, a senior research scientist at the Queensland Department of Employment Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI). Anyone interested in contributing can do so here:

Gerald Martin is Chairman of the Pollination Program, run as a partnership between the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) and Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL).

“We need to send a message that bees are under threat from all sides, and we need to move now to prepare for when there are simply not enough bees in our environment to pollinate our food,” Mr Martin said.

“We are fortunate to have a massive population of wild European honeybees that pollinate our gardens in both urban and rural areas, but if Varroa mite becomes established in Australia, these bees will be all but wiped out.

“There are no clear figures on the cost to backyard fruit trees and vegetable gardens, but we know the role honeybees play in food production – for example, the production of vegetable seeds in the nursery is completely reliant on pollination.

“We want to make sure everyone is aware of the importance of pollination and Australia’s reliance on wild European honeybees for food production, so there’s a national effort by beekeepers in urban as well as rural areas to be vigilent about monitoring their hives for anything unusual,” said Mr Martin.

The Pollination Program is funding research into surveillance aimed at detecting Varroa as soon as it arrives, as well as making sure there are miticides that will kill Varroa, and other management options available to help beekeepers fight any incursion. More details are available on the RIRDC website at