Bees ‘contribute $3-$4 billion a year to Australian agriculture’

President of the Wagga Amateur Beekeepers Club Michael James.
President of the Wagga Amateur Beekeepers Club Michael James.

The humble honey bee is believed to benefit Australian crops to the tune of $3 or $4 billion a year, according to the Department of Primary Industries.

Beekeepers and growers of horticultural crops, broadacre crops and pastures all benefit from bees visiting flowers.

Such is the importance of the humble honey-producer that preparing and maintaining bees for pollination is the focus of a new AgGuide, recently released by the DPI.

Lead author and NSW DPI honey bees technical specialist Doug Somerville said the new guide provided information for beekeepers to ensure their bees were fit for pollination and offered advice to crop growers on creating an environment that will provide the best results.

“Honey bees are the major insect pollinator of a significant number of flowering crops. Without them it is unlikely that many important crops would be economically viable,” Dr Somerville said.

“Recent estimates value honey bee pollinations at $3-4 billion dollars to the Australian economy.

“Australia has approximately 10,000 beekeepers managing over half a million honey bee hives which are potentially available for contract pollination.

“The guide was developed following the success of the course – Using Bees for Pollination – delivered at Tocal College last year.”

Dr Somerville said various topics are covered in the guide including: honey bee colonies; nutrition for bees; health problems; hive strength; and size of the operation.

“Beekeepers can learn about orchard design and management, managing hives on the crop, netting and glass houses and post pollination hive management,” Dr Somerville said.

“Also, the important topic on how to make a business agreement between grower and beekeeper is covered in the guide.”

The AgGuide Pollination using honey bees is available for purchase from Tocal College in printed and eBook formats online or phone 1800 025 520.

Michael James, the president of the Wagga Amateur Beekeepers Club, believes there is a growing awareness across the whole community  – not just within agricultural industries – about the importance of bees.

“People are becoming more aware that bees are vital because they’re putting veggie gardens in and realising there are not enough bees in suburban areas to pollinate all the vegetables,” Mr James said.

The Wagga club has grown from a membership of about 15 four years ago to today’s level of 70.

Currently, the club had a waiting list of interested members waiting to obtain a swarm and begin their own hive.