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07 October 2010

Help save our honey bees

Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Rural and Regional Queensland

The Honourable Tim Mulherin

07/10/2010

Survey beeline

Queensland's commercial growers and backyard gardeners are being urged to take part in a bee pollination survey to help fight a serious pest.

Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Rural and Regional Queensland Tim Mulherin said the Small Hive Beetle had become endemic throughout most of eastern Queensland, where it had destroyed many beehives in the last two years.

"With two in every three mouthfuls of food needing pollination by agents such as the honey bee, we are keen to gather data to accurately assess the wider impact this pest might be having on our food production," the Minister said.

"Without pollination our food supply chain would effectively collapse.

"This would have drastic ramifications for Queensland's economy with one in eight jobs in the Queensland workforce either partially or entirely supported by the agricultural supply chain.

"This equates to more than a quarter of a million Queensland jobs in the food supply chain which would be affected.

"This is why we are keen to gather data to accurately assess the wider impact this hive beetle pest is having on our food production.

"This is part of the Bligh Government's commitment to protecting Queensland jobs and strengthening the value of the regional economies.

"Up until now we have only had anecdotal evidence to suggest the beetle is affecting the pollination of backyard, horticultural and agricultural crops throughout Queensland.

"An online survey in October and November will provide scientists and industry groups with a clearer picture of the indirect but wider damage being done by the Small Hive Beetle.

"The survey specifically asks these target groups what they grow, whether they have noticed a decrease in the number of bees and/or in their yields in recent years.

"Agri-Science Queensland scientists from the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) also w ant to know if growers have sought paid pollination services over the past two years."

The Minister said researchers were particularly interested to hear from people who had vegetable patches in their backyards.

"There are thousands of backyard vegetable patches throughout eastern Queensland," Mr Mulherin said.

"Declining yields don't just affect big producers and many people with vegetable patches might not be aware of the important role bees play in pollination.

"Many backyard vegetable growers mightn't know their plants aren't producing fruit, or the fruit died on the vine because the flowers weren't pollinated.

"Some people with vegetable patches might've noticed a decrease in yields over the past two years in common produce such as zucchini, squash and pumpkins.

"We also want to hear from people who routinely self pollinate their vegetables, or those who have started self pollination.

"It is important for all producers and horticultural and agricultural groups to respond to the survey."

Dr Diana Leemon from Agri-Science Queensland said the most affected hives appeared to be the backyard hives that weren't moved around.

"Hives that aren't moved are prime targets for the beetle, so while the owners of backyard vegetable patches or hives might think their production is small, their feedback will be valuable," she said.

"There are limited control options, mostly involving management strategies, for the Small Hive Beetle.

"The beetle is an exotic pest from South Africa and was first detected in Australia in 2002.

"There is widespread concern throughout the agricultural and the beekeeping industry because of the destruction the beetles can cause.

"The beetles are spreading at an alarming rate, often up to 15 kilometers a day.

"Beetle larvae feed on baby bees, pollen and honey and totally destroy the hive when large numbers of larvae build up.

"In the last year alone, 734 Queensland beekeepers reported more than $2.1 million in hive losses due to the Small Hive Beetle.

"While there is so far no effective way to stop the beetle, there are management strategies in place including some commercial and home made in-hive traps."

Dr Leemon said the pollination survey data would prove extremely useful for scientists and industry groups in the fight against the beetle.

"It is important that we get accurate data about any flow on effect the loss of bees is having on backyard and commercial crops in Queensland," she said.

"The local honey bee industry plays an important role in the pollination process and is estimated to provide around $1 billion in value to the Queensland economy."

The online survey is available at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PVSZTR6

For more information call DEEDI's Business Information Centre on 13 25 23 or visit www.deedi.qld.gov.au

COMMENT: Ipswich residents are encouraged to get involved in this survey which will help Queensland's beekeepers and keep our honeybees alive.

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