Bee-ing in the right place at the right time 19 Dec 2013

Hot spots for potential incursions of exotic bee pests and pest bees have been identified in a new report, so more resources can be targeted where they’re most likely to enter the country.

This risk assessment has been carried out by the CSIRO to help shape the next phase of the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program. This Program is jointly funded by horticultural industries, the honeybee industry and the Australian Government and is managed nationally by Plant Health Australia (PHA).

Facilitator of the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program, Sam Malfroy from PHA, said the CSIRO report reiterated the need to focus on Australia’s east coast ports and ships from New Zealand and South East Asia.

“Early warning greatly increases the possibility of eradicating an incursion, and limits the scale and cost of any eradication program,” Mr Malfroy said.

“Pest bees or bee pests could be devastating, not only to our honeybee industry, but also to agriculture and horticulture in Australia, as many crops are dependent on pollination by honeybees for yield and quality.

“Australia also exports queen bees and packaged bees, so this program will provide technical and evidence-based information to support our pest-free status claim in export negotiations.”

The Program is an excellent example of effective collaboration between industry and government at both a federal and state and territory level. It shows the honeybee and plant industries are taking a leadership role in biosecurity management and their ongoing productivity.

The Program has already increased the number of sentinel hives to 126 at high risk ports around Australia, which are the front line for detection of the exotic Varroa mite. The Program is now focusing on introducing multiple levels of surveillance in high risk areas to ensure possible incursions are detected early.

“Remote monitoring of beehives through the use of cameras and mobile phones, together with hobby beekeepers in urban environments, state government staff and federal biosecurity teams will all be needed to identify and mount a response to a possible incursion,” Mr Malfroy said.

In many cases, the systems being put in place will utilise the results of research carried out by the Pollination Program, another cross-industry effort funded through Horticulture Australia Limited and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, and which also funds the position of facilitator for the surveillance program.

For details on the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program, visit