Media Release

​A hive of research activity to protect Australian bees

15 August 2016

The Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston, today launched a project involving Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA) teaming up with Plant & Food Research New Zealand (PFRNZ) to strengthen Australia's defences against Varroa mite, and enhance crop pollination.

In Inglewoood today at a plum and avocado farm, Senator Ruston said the five-year project, which will receive a total of $5 million in joint funding from HIA and PFRNZ, will identify how to eradicate bee diseases or manage them if threats such as the Varroa mite were established in Australia.

"Australia is the last continent in the world not to have the Varroa mite established here, but we simply can't afford to let our guard down," Senator Ruston said.

"There are multiple species of Varroa mite, with Varroa jacobsoni and Varroa destructor the main species of concern.

"The recent Queensland Varroa jacobsoni discoveries have been managed, but they highlight the need to be alert and prepared.

"Fortunately for our farmers, Varroa destructor has not been detected in Australia.

"Plant & Food Research New Zealand is well-placed to provide advice on Varroa response and control, with the pest having been in their country for more than a decade.

"This project will help safeguard crops including fruit, vegetables and nuts that are dependent on honey bee pollination, and arm the beekeeping industry with the tools it needs to respond to a Varroa outbreak.

"It will, for the first time, determine current pollination requirements for specific fruit, vegetable and nut species, and provide honey bee stocking rate recommendations.

"While our intent and focus to stop Varroa from establishing here continues, moving to improve pollination practices now will prepare industries and will also lead to significant benefits in crop yields in the short term.

"It follows the Turnbull Coalition Government providing more than $5.2 million under round two of the R&D for Profit Program for a project to boost the number of pollinating insects across the nation.

"Effective pollination by various insects, including bees, is essential to the productivity of orchards and other crops across Australia, and an increase in pollination activities can lead to higher farmgate returns."

More information on the project is available at http://horticulture.com.au/