Healthy bees are vitally important to a wide range of agricultural and horticultural crops, plus they contribute more than $30 million to the state’s economy each year producing honey and other products.
But the humble bees face a number of disease threats that need to be managed.
Kootingal apiarist Raymond Hull supports the code of practice designed to minimise the impact diseases like American Foulbrood have on beekeeping.
“It’s a brood disease that affects bees and nothing else,” he said. “Bees have no resistance to American Foulbrood and it can’t be treated, unlike European Foulbrood that can be treated with chemicals.
“It kills the hive completely and the spores that cause the disease can survive for more than 100 years.”
The only way to kill the spore is irradiation.
The good news is experienced beekeepers, with effective management practices, rarely have issues with American Foulbrood.
Mr Hull said the disease was found in the wider Tamworth area, often in wild bees or bees that haven’t been looked after properly.
He fully supports the NSW Department of Primary Industries biosecurity measures and the code of practice.
“It’s what 90 percent of commercial beekeepers are doing anyway,” he said. “It makes sense to keep a record of bee movements.”
Mr Hull said problems often occur when recreational beekeepers don’t look after their hives and, sometimes, when apiarists loose interest or are on the cusp of retirement and can’t care for the hives properly. According to the NSW Government, the number of recreational beekeepers in NSW has doubled over the past five years, prompting a need for emphasis on bee biosecurity and hive health.
There are more than 6000 registered beekeepers, with hundreds more likely to be operating unregistered.
NSW Department of Primary Industries declared October as American Foulbrood Awareness Month and all registered beekeepers should receive detailed information about AFB and were encouraged to check their hives.
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair – a hobby beekeeper himself – said the wider apiculture industry contributed $36 million to the economy and provides essential pollination for horticulture and crops.
“Honey bees play a vital role in cropping and without them, it’s unlikely that many of our important crops would be economically viable,” Mr Blair said. “The largest adopter of pollination services is the almond industry, with 79 per cent of NSW pollinating businesses supplying services to almond producers.”