Perth commuters and visitors to the city are encouraged to make a bee-line to the Murray Street Mall on Thursday to celebrate World Bee Day 2021.
A bee flora display in the mall will feature a safely enclosed bee hive, as well as bee experts to enlighten visitors about research efforts to foster and protect the Australian honey bee industry.
Visitors can learn about research to support the safety and integrity of honey products, including recent enhancements to the B-QUAL quality assurance system by the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Honey Bee Products, a team of researchers funded by the Federal Government.
The University of Western Australia (UWA) and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPRID) are CRC participants, which have been working to augment B-QUAL as a tool to aid the continuous improvement of bee businesses and industry.
B-QUAL was initially established as a traceability tool in 1999 by the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council and is now guided by a board of Australia’s top beekeepers.
CRC CEO Liz Barbour, from the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment, said the upgraded digital system would help beekeepers maintain records to assist their businesses to grow and develop.
“B-QUAL was originally developed as a food safety program to meet quality assurance requirements for both domestic and export markets and captured tracking and tracing data, as well as biosecurity and hygiene information,” Dr Barbour said.
“Recent modifications have been made to enable beekeepers to benchmark so they can make informed management decisions to improve their business and offer customers quality assured honey bee products.
“This system is being modified to be offered to all beekeepers so smaller operators can access a self-auditing system, B-Trace, which importantly records biosecurity observations critical for maintaining Australia’s bee health.”
The B-QUAL system also now links to extensive flora mapping throughout Australia, which is being modified into a bee flora management decision tool.
The tool takes into account forest logging, burn intensity and how quickly the vegetation recovers to assist hive placement planning.
“This link to flowering and honey production is proving to be a powerful aspect of the tool that has attracted interest from biodiversity researchers interested in vegetation recovery from bushfires of varying intensities,” Dr Barbour said.
The CRC partners are also working on extending the B-QUAL system to include a new function that details honey chemistry to provide customers with confidence in the provenance of the product they are purchasing.
“Every beekeeper has a different story to tell about the characteristics of their honey product and how it is unique,” Dr Barbour said.
“The testing will help to align honey characteristics with the product to provide customers a more authentic understanding.”
DPIRD staff will also be on hand at the Murray Street Mall display to talk about the department’s involvement in the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program.
The program has 44 sentinel hives located at ports at Fremantle, Derby, Geraldton, Kwinana, Bunbury, Albany and Esperance, as well as Perth Airport to detect swarms of exotic bees that could threaten the State’s enviable biosecurity status.
The hives, known as catchboxes, are checked by DPIRD officers regularly, while some also employ automated cameras.
DPIRD principal agribusiness development consultant Gerard Leddin said the program provided an early warning system to detect new incursions of bees from overseas, which could introduce potentially devastating pests and diseases.
“WA is free from exotic bees and viruses, like Varroa mite, Asian honey bee and European foul brood, and it is important to undertake surveillance to ensure any biosecurity incursions are detected and dealt with swiftly to protect our industry and market access,” he said.
The National Bee Pest Surveillance Program is jointly funded by the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, Horticulture Innovation Australia, AgriFutures Australia, Grain Producers Australia and the Australian Government.
World Bee Day raises awareness of the importance of bees and beekeeping and includes events around the world.
Find out more about bee research, the importance of bees globally and efforts to help bees to thrive in UWA’s video.
Megan Broad/Katrina Bowers, media liaison
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