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Bee parasite varroa destructor fears diminished by native bees and insects for some breeders

Written by Javed Iqbal

Farmers who have ensured that native bipopulations thrive on their orchards breathe a sigh of relief, with the insect immune to the biosecurity situation involving a bee-killing mite.

Officials already have that ordered the destruction of more than 300 hives in the Newcastle area as part of efforts to limit the spread of the Varroa destructor – commonly called the varroamide – with another biosafety zone announced for NSW’s Mid North Coast on Tuesday.

The biosafety emergency could cost the honey bee industry $ 70 million, while the flow effects on the crops that use them for pollination are still unknown.

Entomologist Tim Heard said so far that the disaster had only affected European honeybees.

“The mites’ biology, their life cycle and the way they feed their host are very consistent with their host, and so we do not believe they can jump to other species, including our native bees,” he said.

It is a relief for some fruit and vegetable growers who have maintained stingless Australian bee populations on their farms.

Warren Yeomans grows a variety of fruits, including cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, apples and pears in his Armidale plantation in the NSW New England region.

Ripe cherries on the branch
Warren Yeomans rely on native bees to pollinate a variety of fruits.(ABC New England North West: Donal Sheil)

He said his original bee population had thrived, and as a result, he had not needed honey bees to pollinate his crops.

“I have always observed how many bees there are around, so I am aware of trees that have bees in them and I keep an eye on them,” Mr Yeomans said.

“I’m pretty sure I want enough locals [bee] activity with the environment around me. “

Worker bees fly towards a nest.
Tetragonula carbonaria is a type of native bee used for pollination.(Delivered: Tobias Smith)

Macadamia pollinators

Macadamia growers in the NSW Coastal Region also hope they will be able to turn to native bees for pollination.

With a number of other pollination opportunities to work with, Australian Macadamia Society CEO Jolyn Burnett said his industry was in a more fortunate position than others.

“But we are still quite dependent on honeybees to ensure that we get strong pollination and thus a good crop.”

Two long rows of macadamia trees
Macadamia growers say their industry is in a much better position than those that rely on honeybees.(ABC North Coast: Kim Honan)

Sir. Burnett said coastal NSW macadamia plantations were often close to bushland, which saw populations of various insects help pollinate crops.

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Javed Iqbal

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