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Bee keepers appeal for industry help -

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(generated from captions) time. Good to talk to you. A parliamentary inquiry has heard worrying evidence about threats facing one of the smaller and more colouful of our agricultural industries. Beekeepers are appealing for urgent action to set up educational and research facilities to arrest a perilous decline in their industry. They claim a lack of new and skilled entrants. Equally, investment in science to fight bee parasites,

is not just threatening the future of honey production, it could have serious effects on the whole of agriculture. Christopher Zinn reports. They've been very good workers for us. Yes, we've enjoyed having you. It might be a hive of activity, but honey is not the only way that bees make money. Now they're being corralled as livestock on the wing, largely by foreign workers. I'll do the pouring and you do the weighing. Plump honey bees are being packed by the kilos to fly as airline cargo to North America. It's a multimillion-dollar business for bee exporter Warren Taylor, but there's a recruitment problem. require expanding number of workers Yes, we're an expanding company and getting Australians willing to work and we just have great difficulty with honey bees. as much as a business. Beekeeping is a nomadic way of life of the flowering Eucalyptus. Following the flow, as they say, doesn't seem to cut much ice. Today the romance of the road to work here? Why is it hard to find people have neglected our industry Well, Australian Government our only two bee-training courses. and they've closed down The issue is wider than labour. as they gather nectar and pollen. As bees work very hard for all of us all manner of crops Their real value is in pollinating alone this largely free service, and it's estimated in Australia and those managed in hives, from both wild bee populations to agriculture. is worth up to $2 billion a year 60% of Australian agriculture for pollination. depends upon honey bees there won't be almonds, peaches, If we don't have pollination apricots and pears. an energetic spreader of pollen, The European honey bee, was first brought here in the 1820s. In recent years, going through some tough times. those who depend on it have been

hit by drought, bushfire, The beekeeping industry has been low honey prices to national parks and reserves. and even problems getting access But there's one small intruder much more than just their business. which they say could damage the beekeeping industry The Varroa mite has devastated of the globe bar Australia. as it spreads to most parts around the world. You hear about it all America has lost -

or trying to get Australian bees and they're now demanding for pollination. because they need them They've lost a terrific lot. and queen bee breeding for 50 years. Grechen Wheen has been beekeeping because it makes a difference. I hope these are virgins of queen bees She's a skilled inseminator because improving a bee's blood line and performance. can be vital to both its health 1 cent a kilo levy on honey, Research is funded by an under matches dollar for dollar. which the Federal Government that's less than $500,000 worth. But even in a good year, about bees? We know everything there is to know No way. No, there's a great deal between the bees and the plants. and also the connections the impact of the Varroa mite In Canberra, the concerns about are echoed by the CSIRO's expert of the beekeeping industry. who calls it the foot and mouth have got it here in Australia We would have thought that we would before New Zealand got it strict quarantine. because New Zealand has very, very in 2000. But it arrived in New Zealand inevitable that it will get here. So you'd just have to say it is studying the mite Denis Anderson has spent years to make the honey bee resistant. to try and find ways it would look something like that. If you were to find the mite inadequate to bring bee research, He says the available funding is which is in the national interest, into the 21st century. a bee research lab, It's very expensive to run things like DNA technology particularly if you're dealing with strategic-type problems but when you're looking at for research. that definitely isn't enough money their submissions The apiarists have put and research facilities for specific honey bee educational on rural skills, to a parliamentary committee which met in Queensland last week. The whole issue was centred around frustrations the beekeeping industry's the governments of the day in trying to convince that they are an important industry in numbers, and whilst they're small overall. they have an enormous impact works with Tim Alfroy Lewin Goodwin Brickhill on a family honey business, but they are atypically young. apiarist is 58. The average age of an Australian Honey prices are hardly high,

in the industry. but these two see a future

you get to move around lots, Because it's migratory, places right out west or upper coast so you get to get to see different depending on where the honey is. It's a bit like droving, I suppose. A bit romantic or stuff like that. As with other businesses, from just honey. that future may involve diversifying And if, as many have feared, slip into Australia, the Verroa mite will one day like their US counterparts, then Australian farmers, for what they now get for free. will have to get used to paying for pollination, In America they get paid

paid much for pollination. but whereas here we don't get many hives left, In America they haven't got for pollination, especially almonds. so they have to pay big money are now leaving the bush Warren Taylor's bees pollinate the spring blueberry crop. and heading to Canada to help

boxes with some 5 million bees At the airport, the pallet of 400 to ensure their safe arrival is specially wrapped and treated where the mite has wreaked havoc. on a side of the world this parliamentary committee, We are hoping through honey bee pollination the committee will recognise down the same track and realise we don't want to go down that America has gone down to pollinate their crops where they have insufficient bees before it is too late. and will do something now Christopher Zinn with that report. And that's the program for tonight.