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Beekeepers get online to get defensive 07 May 2013

Every beekeeper, commercial or hobbyist can boost Australia’s defences against the incursion of the devastating Varroa mite, with resources and training freely available online to raise awareness and understanding.

A meeting of the Varroa Continuity Strategy Management Committee, including representatives of Plant Health Australia (PHA), state and federal agriculture departments, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, CSIRO and pollination reliant industries recently discussed an online training system for beekeepers which is simple and easy to access.

Chair of the Pollination R&D Committee Gerald Martin says PHA’s free Biosecurity Online Training (BOLT) system, developed through funding from the Pollination Program, provides all beekeepers with the knowledge to detect bee pests early and minimise the spread of potential pest incursions.

“Good biosecurity practices and awareness are vital to protecting the honey bee and pollination industries as around 65 per cent of horticultural and agricultural crops produced in Australia require pollination by honey bees to produce fruit, vegetables, crops and seeds.

“In particular early detection of Varroa will be key to our management of this pest which has the potential to decimate our pollination and honey industries, as it has done in so many countries around the world.

“If you are a commercial enterprise or a backyard beekeeper you should inspect hives regularly, be able to identify Varroa mite and parasitic mite syndrome and report either immediately to 1800 084 881.”

The BOLT module is free, and also aims to promote and outline biosecurity best practices and basic awareness of 13 priority established and exotic pests.

The Varroa Continuity Strategy aims to have arrangements in place that allow the honey bee industry, growers of pollinator reliant crops and governments to prepare for, and respond quickly and efficiently to the potential incursion and establishment of Varroa in Australia. This is so the effects on the honey bee industry and pollination reliant crops are minimised as much as possible. Plant Health Australia is responsible for the progression of the strategy.

The Management Committee is also developing a communications plan to help potentially affected industries prepare for the possible incursion of Varroa; progressing the provisional registration of key chemicals for the treatment of Varroa; coordinating research, development and extension activities between industry and government; and helping to strengthen the capacity of the honey bee industry, pollination reliant industries and government agencies through workshops, educational resources and other communication channels.

If you would like to access BOLT, visit: www.planthealthaustralia.com.au/training