Beekeeping for small landholders in Western Australia

Page last updated: Tuesday, 30 August 2022 - 8:16am

Pests and diseases

Good biosecurity practices are vital to ensure WA remains free of a number of exotic bee pest and diseases, such as European foulbrood, that are currently present in other Australian states and territories. Australia is free of Varroa mite.

If exotic pests and diseases entered WA they would seriously affect the state's bee industry and negatively impact the agricultural and horticultural industries that rely on bees for pollination.

Diseases are easily spread when honeybees gain access to hives, beeswax, hive components and other beekeeping equipment infected with disease, potentially carrying disease-causing organisms back to their own hive.

Good apiary hygiene practices are essential to protect your business or your backyard hives from the entry of endemic and exotic pests and diseases and their spread if they are introduced.

During maintenance and honey extraction, work on one hive at a time and disinfect all equipment including the hive tool.

It is best to wear disposable gloves, replacing them after you have finished with each hive, or disinfect your hands or gloves after handling equipment at each hive. It is also helpful to number each frame so that you can return them to the same hive each time.

Re-queen hives regularly to stop them from becoming weak.

Maintaining strong hives is a vital part of keeping hives pest or disease free, as this prevents ‘robber’ honeybees from entering the hive and potentially spreading pests or diseases they may be carrying.

Check beehives and apiary regularly and report any suspicious signs of pests or disease to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) immediately.

It is also good practice to have honey samples, bees and brood combs regularly analysed by a certified laboratory. Fees do apply for such testing.

The pest and diseases of bees that need to be reported if signs are present.
Name of pest or disease Present in WA Caused by Transmitted Signs/symptoms
American foulbrood (AFB) Yes Bacteria Spread by bacteria and spore contaminated equipment, ‘robber’ bees or drifting bees Rapid death in larval tissue. Sunken, damaged and perforated cappings on the sealed brood
Sacbrood Yes Virus Common in most hives but only causes disease in bees that are genetically susceptible

 

Larvae affected by the virus die once the cell has been capped
European foulbrood No Bacteria Spread by bees gaining access to hives, beeswax and equipment infected with the disease Sunken and greasy cappings and foul smell. Infected larvae die before their cells are capped in a twisted position and become yellow-brown
Varroa mite No Parasitic mite Spread through drones and worker bees and the transport and movement of hives, used beekeeping equipment, packaged bees and queen bees Deformed pupae and adults (stunting, damaged wings/legs/abdomens), parasitic mite syndrome (PMS) and colony decline

Honey extraction

Before removing the supers (boxes) which contain the frames, make sure most of the frames are capped. This is a sign that the honey is ready to be harvested.

The frames are removed from the super and a heated sharp knife or uncapping machine is used to remove the wax capping’s from each side of the frame.

Uncapped frames are then loaded into an extractor. The extractor is spun and the centrifugal force extracts the honey from the frames.

The honey, along with pieces of wax capping and the odd honeybee, is then passed through a fine mesh filter or allowed to settle for a couple of days.

This allows the particles to be removed from the honey so it is ready for bottling. Honey extraction can be done in a mobile van or a purpose-built facility.

All facilities must meet your LGA’s health regulations for a food processing premises.

Honey is priced based on colour and a 'P-fund reading'. The P-fund grader visually compares a standard amber-coloured glass wedge with liquid honey contained in a wedge-shaped cell.

The colour intensity of the honey is expressed as a distance (mm) along the amber wedge and usually ranges between 1-140mm.

The lighter the colour of the honey, the more valuable it is to the beekeeper when sold to a honey packer.

Pollination services

Pollination of crops by bees is an integral part of the agriculture and horticultural sector. Without bee pollination some crops would suffer greatly reduced yields.

Pollination services are a controlled way of guaranteeing effective bee pollination of crops while also providing honeybees with access to a crops pollen and nectar.

In this situation beekeepers must ensure that bees are healthy and can effectively pollinate the crop while the producer must ensure that the bees are not disturbed or harmed (for example, through use of agricultural chemicals).