Beekeeper role is very important

Beekeepers play role in the fight to protect us from exotic pests and disease

Smart Farmer How To
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Apiarists help in the fight to protect against pest and disease

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FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT: The new Beekeeper Emergency Response Training course will help minimise the impact of exotic bee pests and diseases.

FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT: The new Beekeeper Emergency Response Training course will help minimise the impact of exotic bee pests and diseases.

Australia has been very successful over the years in keeping the majority of exotic weeds, pests and diseases out of our country.

We have a great advantage being in an island continent surrounded by vast oceans which has allowed our import controls, quarantine and incursion responses to be more effective in keeping out unwanted visitors.

All of our rural industries benefit from Australia's relative freedom from exotic pests which allows us to produce clean and healthy food and fibre with reduced inputs of pesticides.

The honeybee industry in Australia enjoys relative freedom from pests and diseases which are endemic in much of the rest of the world.

This relative freedom means that the Australian honeybee industry is able to economically produce some of the best honey products in the world and provide the invaluable pollination services which support a range of cropping industries.

We are also able to export disease free queen bees all over the world.

An example of the success of our biosecurity programs relevant to bees is that Australia is so far free from the devastating bee pest Varroa mite, which now occurs in all other continents and is considered to be the greatest challenge facing world beekeeping.

Were this pest to become established in Australia, it would devastate our honey industry and the valuable pollination services provided by honeybees.

Australia has a rigorous program of inspection of all goods coming into our ports which has so far prevented the incursion of this dangerous pest.

This is our first line of defense and has been effective to date, but experts in the field acknowledge that Australia is unlikely to remain free from Varroa.

In the event of an incursion our next line of defense is to mount an emergency response to contain and eradicate the infestation.

This is the role of our biosecurity agencies in each state and territory and will demand a huge effort from all stakeholders.

One of the key functions during an emergency response is the role of surveillance and tracing which aims to locate infections and trace any contacts from that site which may lead to further spread.

Carrying out surveillance usually involves teams of biosecurity officers visiting suspected premises to complete inspections and take samples for testing.

This function is similar for all plant and animal pests and diseases.

In the event of a bee response it will be essential for experienced beekeepers to be available to assist with hive inspections as these specialist skills are not widely available within biosecurity agencies.

It is therefore necessary to train beekeepers and industry personnel with the skills to actively participate as part of a response team.

It is necessary to train beekeepers and industry personnel with the skills to participate as part of a response team.

NSW DPI Biosecurity and Food Safety has recently developed and commenced delivery of an innovative training program to train professional and hobbyist beekeepers in the skills required to assist in a response.

This new course is called Beekeeper Emergency Response Training (BERT) and will greatly improve our response capacity and help minimise the impact of exotic bee pests and diseases.

The BERT course provides beekeepers with an introduction to how a response is organised and managed, focusing heavily on the critical process of decontamination of personnel and equipment both going onto and exiting an inspection site.

This new course is delivered by bee biosecurity officers from NSW DPI Biosecurity and Food Safety in partnership with Tocal College and is nationally accredited under the unit of competence AHCBER301 Work effectively in an emergency disease or plant pest response.

This program will help form a strong relationship between all stakeholders and will help Government and Industry work together to protect our valuable honeybee industry and pollination services.

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