The economic value of honey and other hive products produced by managed honey bees in Australia is comparatively small at an estimated $100 million per year.
However, honey bees make an enormous indirect contribution to Australia’s economy through the pollination services they provide. Pollination of crops and plants involves the fertilisation of flowering plants via the transfer of pollen between them. Many fruit, nut, vegetable, legume and seed crops cannot bear fruit or seeds without being pollinated. Although a range of insect species can pollinate plants, honey bees play a vital role in pollinating many horticultural crops.
In addition to pollinating crops, honey bees can also assist the grazing industry by improving the yield and persistence of common fodder crops such as clovers. This can reduce agricultural input costs and may also have environmental benefits by reducing graziers’ need to use fertilisers or other chemicals.
Australia has been historically fortunate in that its physical isolation has enabled it to remain free of many of the worst plant and animal pests. However, the risk of invasive pests or diseases arriving here has become more acute due to growing trade links with the rest of the world and increasing international travel. The Australian honey bee industry is not immune to these risks and faces a range of biosecurity threats.
This report follows a roundtable discussion on honey bees and biosecurity on 24 November 2016. The roundtable was attended by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR), CSIRO, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC), and Plant Health Australia (PHA).
The Committee approached the roundtable as an opportunity to better understand the biosecurity threats the beekeeping industry faces and assess the adequacy of Government risk mitigation strategies. This report will summarise the evidence received at the roundtable and will outline the conclusions the Committee has reached based on that evidence.