12 September 2022
Australian scientists are working to develop a world-first, parasite-specific insecticide that is safe for honey bees but fatal to Varroa mite.
Australia has one of the healthiest honey bee populations in the world, but the agricultural industry has been on high alert since the parasite Varroa mite was detected at the NSW Port of Newcastle in late June this year. The recent removal of yellow notification zones is welcome news considering if not contained, an outbreak could cost industry and consumers up to $1.3 billion over 30 years.
Pesticides are a critical tool for the containment of invasive species as part of frontline border security measures to protect Australia’s natural biodiversity. Researchers from Sydney University and Hort Innovation are working to create a molecule that specifically targets the Varroa mite’s hormone receptors, without interfering with beneficial or native insects when applied to bees in hives.
While the insecticide could still be at least two years away from commercialisation, the plant science industry has long invested in the development of more pest specific technologies that could assist with the surveillance, detection and management of existing pests and diseases already on our shores.
In partnership with the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, CropLife and its members have long practiced pollinator monitoring and protection strategies through BeeConnected®.
The nation-wide, user-driven smartphone app communicates the location of hives and spray arrangements between beekeepers, farmers and spray contractors to facilitate best-practice pollinator protection.
CropLife Australia’s Pollinator Protection Initiative also recognises the many other native insects that play a key role in pollination and food production. Its best-practice stewardship initiatives provide farmers and other product users integrated pest management strategies for ensuring pollinator protection beyond the honey bee.
The Pollinator Protection Initiative is part of CropLife Australia’s StewardshipFirst suite of world-leading product stewardship initiatives, programs and best-practice guides.
Did you know that many wild insects are important pollinators too?
Many flies have hairy bodies that are great at moving pollen between flowers. Some flies, like Syrphids, can carry just as much pollen as honey bees!
Some moths faithfully pollinate certain plants like fruit crops or orchids. Pollination by moths is likely highly underestimated because insects are challenging to study at night.
Wild insects pollinate many crops better than honey bees – visits from wild insects increase fruit set more than honey bee visits. Non-bee insects are more resilient to land use change, and can serve as pollination ‘insurance’ against honey bee losses.