The third Australian bee congress is taking place on the Gold Coast this week, with pollination – or rather “under-pollination” a strong theme.
The subject is suited to this event, which was last held three decades ago, but there is hope the momentum from this year’s congress will carry on into the future.
Bee keeping is big business across the globe, and food security through pollination is critical to many more industries, that almonds and canola.
A similar conference on native bee pollination will take place early next week, also on the Gold Coast.
Papers being presented this week include one from Prof Saul Cunningham, Australia National University, who will talk about the role of crop pollination in future agriculture.
“Pollination by bees has been recognised as a contributor to agricultural productivity for centuries,” Prof Cunningham said in his abstract. “Agricultural practices have changed dramatically over time, especially with increasing mechanisation, crop breeding and application of agrochemicals. By contrast, approaches to crop pollination have received relatively little attention.
“Modern agricultural systems often have the unintended consequence of making crop pollination more difficult to achieve than ever before, and crop pollination is managed as something of an afterthought, if at all.
“As a result underpollination is limiting productivity for some of our crops. Surprisingly, this is true even in almonds.”
Dr Romina Rader, from the University of New England, will discuss the pollination contribution of stingless bees, saying abundance of the bees and landscape structure are critical to successful pollination. “We provide preliminary data to indicate that interactions between stingless bees and honeybees may result in higher fruit set depending on the crop environment,” she said in her abstract.
Prof Andrew Lowe, Director of Food Innovation and Professor of Plant Conversation Biology, University of Adelaide, who advocates restoring native habitat to improve pollination in neighbouring crops.
Dr Judy Wu-Smart, University of Nebraska, will talk about sub-lethal “cascading effects” of neonicotinoid insecticides on queen bees and colony development.