Page 3622 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 22 November 2022
pollinators current population numbers, what makes up this population, their threats, how we respond to those threats and how our younger generations are educated on the importance of bees are all very important questions that I know the Canberra community would be interested in knowing. This information should be readily available and something that can be improved on and updated as time progresses.
This information as requested through this motion will be a valuable asset for working to preserve the pollinator populations into the future. It is upsetting and concerning to know Australia’s bee population is increasingly under threat, with our native, bee keeping and wild honeybee populations at risk due to certain challenges. I note the destruction of their habitat, intensive farming practices, climate change and pest and diseases are some of the complex reasons driving the decline in both the numbers of bees and in the diversity of the populations each year. Honeybees are a form of livestock and need water, food and shelter just like any other living thing. But sadly the summer bushfires of 2019 took a heavy toll on the honeybee population, destroying an estimated 15.6 million hectares of native forest, meaning critical nectar and pollen sources for honeybee colonies were lost. This impact also severely affected our native bee population.
There is an insect that instils fear into all honeybee keepers around the world. This insect is the varroa mite. I am sure we have all heard about the varroa mite outbreak that struck the New South Wales bee colonies around Newcastle region. For those unaware, in June this year the varroa mite was found at the port of Newcastle. These tiny little mites attach themselves to bees and feed on their blood while also infecting bees with bacteria and viruses weakening the bee and often causing its premature death. These mites originated from Asian honeybees but have taken a liking to the European bee species as well. The Varroa mite infests the whole colony of European honeybees where they attach themselves to the bee. Once the beehive is infected beekeepers have no choice but to destroy the whole colony. To date it is recorded that 99 infected beehives have been destroyed around the New South Wales region. The destruction of these 99 sites has resulted in millions of bees needing to be destroyed to protect Australia’s broader bee population.
While this endemic threat may have gone silent in the media, it is still very much impacting bee farms and wild populations across New South Wales. Up until now, the varroa mite has been kept out of Australia. They arrived in Eurasia in the 1940s and in North America in 1987. Unfortunately it looks like they have finally broken through our biosecurity wall and will be an endemic threat in Australia from now on. We all have a responsibility to better protect our bees and that is why this motion is calling for the ACT government to report on biosecurity threats and how we respond.
While the bushfires and varroa mite are concerning, there is still a long list of other threats to our pollinator population. Intensive farming practices and pesticides have been linked to the decline of honeybees around the world. Scientific studies suggest that pesticides can affect the health of bees through immune suppression increasing the suffering from viruses and parasite infections.
I would also like to touch on how climate change has been linked to the loss of bees’ natural habitat. Climate change is already contributing to declining populations of honeybees, thanks to reduced habitats, changing patterns of climate and changing