Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 05 Hansard (Tuesday, 8 May 2018) . . Page.. 1592 ..
The Australian bee industry is not only about honey. Other honey bee products include beeswax production, queen bees, packaged bee sales, pollen and paid pollination services. The industry has an overall gross estimated value of production of $90 million a year. Pollination is a particularly important activity for the bee industry and one that is becoming even more important for many producers than honey production.
Of course, as we have heard already from Ms Le Couteur, without the activities of bees many horticultural crops would simply not happen. In fact the little honey bee is the most important insect pollinator of cultivated, agricultural and horticultural crops worldwide. The saying “busy as bees” is most accurate. With the Australian production of almonds and blueberries particularly on the increase, paid pollination services are becoming a significant financial stream of an apiarist’s business plan.
We are also lucky or perhaps privileged that as an island continent we do have a particularly active biosecurity network so that bee diseases common in other countries are not present here. Beekeepers are always on the watch for a number of diseases—American foulbrood, European foulbrood, sacbrood—as well as a number of predators such as birds like currawongs and bee eaters and insects like redback spiders. I do not like currawongs or redback spiders either but that does not mean I do not like bees.
The Varroa mite is one that could wipe out our bee industry and put at risk our export markets. It had serious impacts in other countries and Australian beekeepers certainly do not want it here. The Varroa mite has spread to and become a major pest of honey bees in the US since its introduction into Florida in the mid-1980s. We do not have it here and we certainly do not want it. According to beekeepers, recent increases in honey imports from countries including China are potential carriers of disease including Varroa mite. We must put our faith in our border protection services to monitor such things.
Also, at the local level we can play our part by buying locally produced honey, supporting local amateur beekeepers and honey producers and, for those who have gardens, making sure they grow plants that encourage bees so that they can keep busy collecting nectar and pollinating local crops like blueberries and fruit trees.
As we have already heard, 20 May marks World Bee Day, which is recognised by a UN resolution. Ms Le Couteur has indicated there will be a number of activities around the ACT. It is a good time to acknowledge the importance of bees and other pollinators and at the very least we should be eating honey on that day.
We have a number of native bees in Australia. A number of them produce honey and a number of them do not sting. But not many of them are indigent to the ACT because it is apparently too cold for them. It would have been nice if we had local bees here that did not have stings. There are a number of people who are very allergic to bee stings and it is one of the reasons why, for example, you cannot have a hive in your own garden or you are discouraged from having a hive in your own garden if someone in your family or your neighbour is allergic to bee stings.