CATCH THE BUZZ
survey to ascertain health of bees
Tas Country Hour
By Rosemary Grant
Australia's honey bee
population and their hives have been booked in for a thorough health
Australia remains free of many major honey bee pests,
such as the Varroa mite, that are present in other countries.
But speculation in the USA that a virus, potentially
imported from Australia, may contribute to colony collapse disorder in honey
bee populations across north America, has halted Australia's live bee exports
to the US.
CSIRO scientist, Dr John Roberts is testing the bee
virus theory with an Australia-wide survey, to discover what viruses and
diseases are actually present in bees.
Dr Roberts says when the project is complete in June
2015, the results could help reopen the big US live export market for honey
"An important part of the bee industry is being
able to export live bees, so packaged bees and queen bees," he said.
"One of those markets that has been quite good
for Australia in the past is the US.
"They have quite a demand for bees to pollinate
"In about 2010, they banned imports of live bees
[of packaged bees] from Australia, because they had done some survey work of
diseases that they had, and they didn't have a couple of bee viruses.
"We, at the moment, haven't found these viruses
"But it's been quite some time [since] we've had
a really good look.
"And there are newer techniques now, that we can
[use to] look for some of these viruses, that might be present at low levels in
our bee populations.
"So it's an opportunity to look at the whole
range of pests and diseases that affect our bees.
"This survey is purely focused on our managed
"To keep things practical, we're sticking to our
commercial bee keepers.
"[I'm] getting samples from across Australia and
having a sufficient spread of beekeepers that we can get a really good look at
all the diseases that we have.
"If we don't find some of these viruses that the
US are concerned about, we can say that we've looked sufficiently to have a
proof of freedom [from disease]."
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