ALL beekeepers, whether commercial or hobbyist, can boost Australia's defences against the incursion of the devastating Varroa mite, using resources and training available free 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 that is simple and easy to access.
Pollination R&D Committee chairman Gerald Martin said the Honey Bee Biosecurity module available for free access through PHA's website www.planthealthaustralia.com.au, was developed through funding from the pollination program to provide all beekeepers with the knowledge to detect bee pests early and minimise the spread of any pest incursions.
"Good biosecurity practices and awareness are vital to protecting the honey bee and pollination industries as around 65% of horticultural and agricultural crops produced in Australia require pollination by honey bees to produce fruit, vegetables, crops and seeds," Mr Martin said.
The honey bee biosecurity training is available through PHA's biosecurity online training (BOLT). Beekeepers learn about biosecurity best practice and can become familiar with 13 pests of bees, some established already and others exotic.
"Early detection of Varroa is particularly important since it will be key to managing this pest. Varroa has the potential to decimate our pollination and honey industries, as it has done in so many countries around the world," Mr Martin said.
"All hives need to be inspected regularly and all beekeepers, from commercial enterprises to backyard hobbyists, need to be able to identify Varroa mite and parasitic mite syndrome and report either immediately to 1800 084 881."
The Varroa continuity strategy was developed so arrangements are in place that allow the honey bee industry, growers of pollination reliant crops and governments to prepare for, and respond quickly and efficiently to the potential incursion and establishment of Varroa in Australia.
The aim is to minimise the effects on the honey bee industry and pollination reliant crops as much as possible. PHA, the co-ordinator of plant biosecurity in Australia, is responsible for progressing the strategy.
If you would like to access the BOLT Honey Bee Biosecurity module, visit www.planthealthaustralia.com.au/training.
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