The humble honey bee is believed to benefit Australian crops to the tune of $ 3-4 billion a year, according to the Department of Primary Industries.
Beekeepers and growers of horticultural crops, field crops and pastures all benefit from the visit of flowers by bees.
Such is the importance of the humble honey grower that preparing and caring for bees for pollination is at the center of a new AgGuide, recently released by DPI.
Senior author and NSW DPI honey bee technical specialist, Doug Somerville, said the new guide provides information for beekeepers to ensure their bees are suitable for pollination and offers advice to crop growers on creating an environment that will provide the best results.
“Bees are the main pollinating insect of a large number of flowering crops. Without them, many important crops are unlikely to be economically viable, ”said Dr Somerville.
“Recent estimates put honey bee pollination at $ 3-4 billion for the Australian economy.
“Australia has around 10,000 beekeepers who manage more than half a million honey bee hives that are potentially available for contract pollination.
“The guide was developed following the success of the course – Using bees for pollination – given at Tocal College last year.”
Dr Somerville said a variety of topics are covered in the guide, including: honey bee colonies; nutrition for bees; health problems; strength of the hive; and the size of the operation.
“Beekeepers can learn about orchard design and management, cultivation management of beehives, nets and greenhouses, and post-pollination hive management,” said Dr Somerville.
“In addition, the important topic of how to make a business agreement between the grower and the beekeeper is covered in the guide. “
AgGuide pollination using honey bees is available for purchase from Tocal College in print and electronic form online at www.tocal.nsw.edu.au or by phone at 1 800 025 520.
Michael James, president of the Wagga Amateur Beekeepers Club, believes there is a growing awareness throughout the community – and not just in the agricultural industries – of the importance of bees.
“People are increasingly realizing that bees are vital because they are setting up vegetable gardens and realizing that there are not enough bees in the suburbs to pollinate all the vegetables,” he said. Mr James said.
The Wagga club has grown from fifteen members four years ago to 70 today.
Currently the club had a waiting list of interested members waiting to get a swarm and start their own hive.