Honey Bee and Pollination R&D News 25 Aug 2014

As foreshadowed in the previous newsletter, RIRDC is streamlining its management processes and moving to reduce administration costs. To increase efficiency the Honey Bee and Pollination Programs have been amalgamated to form the Honey Bee and Pollination Program and RIRDC will keep the Program’s administration costs as low as possible.

Other measures the Program will adopt to minimise costs will be to favour fewer and larger projects, and not calling for projects every year (where enough suitable projects have been submitted in one year to use the budget for two years).
The members of the new committee, which is called the Honey Bee and Pollination Advisory Panel are: 

Michael Hornitzky – Chair; Ben Hooper - Beekeeper, South Australia; James Kershaw - Beekeeper, New South Wales; Ben Brown – Almond Board of Australia; Angus Crawford – Apple & Pear Australia Ltd; Saul Cunningham – Pollination Researcher, CSIRO; Boris Baer – Bee Researcher, University of Western Australia; Greg Murdoch - Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) representative; and Dave Alden – Senior Program Manager, RIRDC.

The members have been appointed for three years.

To accommodate the merger of the Honey Bee and Pollination Programs, a Five Year Plan has been developed which was published as a draft in July. The Five Year Plan draws heavily on the Honey Bee RD&E Plan 2012-2017 and the review of the Pollination 5-Year R&D Plan 2009-2014. The Plan has been prepared in consultation with HAL, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC) and members of Honey Bee and Pollination Advisory Panel. It is available for download on the RIRDC website at

On the 9th of April the “Neonicotinoids and other insecticides – research and stewardship symposium” was held in Canberra.

Funded by RIRDC, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and the Grains Research and Development Corporation, the symposium brought together 90 representatives from the honey bee industry, crop industries that rely on honey bees for pollination, researchers and government agencies to examine information gathered globally on the effects of neonicotinoids on insect pollinators.

The overall message conveyed at the symposium was that neonicotinoids are unlikely to be presenting any greater threat to honey bees and crop pollination than other pesticides that have been used for many years.

The full report and presentations can be found with the following link to the PHA website:

The issue of neonicotinoid use remains controversial. In December 2013 the European Commission suspended the use of neonicotinoid insecticides on flowering crops such as corn, canola sunflowers and cotton. The suspension does not apply to crops that are not attractive to bees or to winter cereals.

Michael Hornitzky – Chair, Honey Bee and Pollination R&D Program


Development of an Australian Bee Health and Management website 
Principal Investigator: Sam Malfroy

The BeeAware website,, which is a hub of information for beekeepers and growers about honey bee biosecurity and pollination of agricultural and horticultural crops, was formally launched at the Victorian Apiarist Association Conference on the 8th of July.

The site contains an extensive range of information about exotic and established pests and diseases of honey bees, and helps beekeepers to identify and respond to these pest threats. It also contains information about the pollination of crops and how beekeepers and growers can work together to provide and receive best practice pollination services.

Screened bottom boards
Principal Investigator: Dr Doug Somerville

The results of this research demonstrate no difference in the productivity of honey bee colonies when using conventional bottom boards or using screened bottom boards and beekeepers should consider trialing screened bottom boards as a possible varroa mite readiness strategy without prejudice that they may affect productivity.
This report can be downloaded from the RIRDC website here:

Inter-specific matings between A.cerana and A. mellifera? 
Principal Investigator: Professor Ben Oldroyd

This project addressed two of the most important issues confronting the beekeeping industry: do interspecific matings occur between the invader and endemic A.mellifera and if matings do occur, does it matter? Previous studies in Japan showed that if there are no other males to mate with, A. mellifera queens will mate with A.cerana drones.

After such matings eggs either fail to hatch, hatch into drones, or, rarely, into female clonal offspring of the queen. A summary of the final report is due to be published soon. For the full report of this project see: Remnant, E. J., A. Koetz, K. Tan, E. Hinson, M. Beekman, and B. P. Oldroyd. 2014. Reproductive interference between honey bee species in Australia and China Molecular Ecology 23:1096-1107.


Five new projects have been approved for funding in the current financial year:

Active Australian Leptospermum Honey: new sources and their bioactivity
Professor Elizabeth Harry – University of Technology, Sydney

The objectives of the project are to (i) perform a comprehensive, Australia-wide survey of Leptospermum honeys to identify floral sources and geographic locations that yield honey with antimicrobial activity, (ii) to determine whether antibacterial activity in Australian Leprospermum honeys correlate with methylglyoxyl (MGO) / dihydroxyacteone (DHA) levels, as is the case for Manuka honey from New Zealand and (iii) determine the range and  spectrum of activity and characteristics of any highly active Australian Leptospermum honeys.

Genetic Evaluation of Australian Honeybees BLUP (Best Linear Unbiased Prediction) procedures
Dr Robert Banks – University of New England

This project is aimed at contributing to the genetic improvement of honey bees in Australia. This will be achieved through (i) the analysis of paper-stored data, from a
well-known queen breeder, relating to genetic parameters amongst the range of production, bee, hive health, and hygienic traits, (ii) an estimation of the genetic progress achieved over the past (up to 25 years) for these traits and (iii) an estimation of the genetic merit of the current queens on hand, allowing more accurate selection for production and health traits, better decisions on matings, and an indication of the genetic merit of external sources of queen bees.

Compatibility of Management Objectives on Public Lands with Beekeeping
Ms Sue Salvin – GHD Pty Ltd

This project will evaluate which types of public lands have management objectives compatible with access by managed European honey bees and those that do not have such objectives. The different public land tenures in each state and territory will be identified  and the management objectives will be reviewed along with any policy documents relating more generally to the use of public land by apiarists. The project will also collate all state policies on beekeeping on public land into a single document.

Chemical Residue in Beehives Post Canola Flowering
Dr Robert Manning – West Australian Agriculture Authority

The aim of this project is to carry out a survey for chemical residues in wax, honey and pollen from hives working canola. The research will be based on a study carried out in the US. The project will also compare the pesticide residues from hives working seed treated and non-seed treated canola. Feral hives in close proximity to canola will also be tested.

External Attractant Trap for Small Hive Beetle (SHB)
Dr Diana Leemon – Agriscience Queensland

This project will involve two key areas. Firstly, the identification of compounds that are attractive to the SHB. This will involve testing compounds from fermenting hive products, determining the presence and identification of aggregation hormone and hive volatiles. The second key area will be to develop the most suitable trap design to house the attractants.