Celebrate World Bee Day

Honeybees are a huge benefit to both ecosystems and economies. Photo: iStockphoto.
Honeybees are a huge benefit to both ecosystems and economies. Photo: iStockphoto.

With an emphasis on 'saving the bees' of late, there is no better time for everyone to learn about the critical role the insects play in our ecosystems and economies than World Bee Day, May 20.

The European honeybee is responsible for pollinating agricultural and horticultural crops throughout Australia, with 65 per cent of all plant-based industries depending on this work.

South Australian growers of almonds, apples, cherries, avocados, berries, small seeds, and some broadacre crops like lucerne rely on pollination, and with these crops valued at about $1.7 billion a year, it's safe to say they would be lost without honeybees.

Products which come directly from honeybees like honey, beeswax, pollen, royal jelly, venom, and package bees also equate to more than $101 million yearly, with about $11 million of that coming from South Australia.

Commercially, there are 173 registered beekeepers who look after more than 66,000 hives across the state, with most finding their place in regional SA.

South Australian Apiarists' Association (SAAA) executive council member and SA Apiary Alliance chair Danny Le Feuvre said more than 40,000 hives would be moved to the Riverland at the end of July to pollinate almond orchards for five weeks.

"Demand for pollination services from the almond industry is expected to increase to 60,000 in the next few years as this industry expands," he said.

"Hives will then be shifted to pollinate other horticultural and agricultural crops across the state from September through to April."

South Australia's honeybee industry took a hit over summer when about 2000 hives were destroyed in bushfires on Kangaroo Island and in the Adelaide Hills and South East.

But beekeepers were buoyed when the SAAA created a GoFundMe campaign which saw honeybee lovers from far and wide raise over $75,000 for producers on Kangaroo Island.

"While World Bee Day is a great initiative and shines an important light on the global honeybee industry, it is very heartening to know that there is support all year-round for our hard working apiarists and colonies of honeybees that contribute so much to the health and well-being of South Australians, our environment and economy," Mr Le Feuvre said.

Federal Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said Australia was home to more than 1500 species of native bees, and it was important for the government to protect them and support research projects such as AgriFutures' investigations into bee health.

"Pests and diseases of bees not only have the potential to devastate bee colonies, but may also impact on the health of native plants should our bees be unable to pollinate them," Mr Littleproud said.

"Alongside our hardworking European honey bees, Australia's native bees also play an important role in pollinating commercial crops such as mango, blueberry, eggplant, tomato, almonds and macadamia, as well as native plants."

He said Australia's Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer and Plant Health Australia have partnered to identify biosecurity risks to native bees, and ways to stop pests entering the country.

"The result will be improved responsiveness for biosecurity risks to Australian native bee species for the protection of native ecosystems and biodiversity," he said.

"The project will deliver other benefits including identifying threats for better decision-making about resource allocation and preparation and strategies to protect Australian native bee populations."