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April 2000

Honey  - Australia's Liquid Gold

All rights reserved This publication is copyright 
The Honey News Archives
A publication of the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council

AHBIC wishes to thank all those who contribute to the support of the organisation. It would be prudent,  when purchasing queen bees or selling honey, to consider supporting those who support the industry and conduct price comparisons on that basis. A list of all current contributors appears below.

AB’s Honey, Australian Bee Exporters, Australian Rainforest Honey, Australian Honey Bee Improvement Programme, Capilano Honey, CE Mills, Chiltern Honey, Coopers Fine Foods, Daybreak Apiaries, Dewar Apiaries, HL & HM Hoskinson, Hunter Valley Apiaries, IJ & PA Oakley, J. Picker, Jackel & Son, R & E McDonald, R. Stephens, RC & DJ Phillips Pty Ltd, Swan Settlers, 
T & M Weatherhead, Walkabout Apiaries, Weerona Apiaries, Wescobee Limited, Windsor Farm Foods Pty Limited, Australian Animal Health Council

Varroa Confirmed in South Auckland New Zealand

As members are now aware, Varroa jacobsoni was discovered in four small South Auckland apiaries on Tuesday April 11, 2000.

Hives on three other properties have been inspected and have shown signs of infestation.  The laboratory identification of the Varroa jacobsoni mite was initially made by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of New Zealand (MAF) entomologists.  Overseas reference laboratory confirmation and identification is also proceeding.

At this stage MAF is not demanding destruction of varroa infected hives, because of the government compensation liability this may incur.  However, both the National Beekeeping Association of New Zealand (NBA) and MAF have recommended that owners of hives destroy their infected hives as soon as possible. 

Export of live bees has been discontinued and further exports will require renegotiation of acceptable bee health states certification from New Zealand trading partners.

Following the discovery of varroa in New Zealand, AHBIC has lobbied Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS), the Minister for Agriculture, Hon Warren Truss, the Minister for Trade, Hon Mark Vaile and the Minister assisting Hon Warren Truss, Senator Judith Troeth to ensure that the outbreak does not spread to Australia.  In this respect we have requested an urgent upgrade of surveillance measures between the two countries.

In summary, we have requested that the Federal Government ensure:-

(i) increased AQIS surveillance and a review of the New Zealand trade to ensure that the mites do not spread to Australia;
(ii) assistance in gaining access to the US bee market (see next story);
(iii) advice be given to importers, passengers and transporters of the increased risk of varroa being introduced into Australia.

AHBIC continues to liaise with AQIS and government departments on the issue.  We are also keen to see that the port surveillance scheme be fully functional and operational in order to ensure maximum defence against the possibility of varroa spreading to Australia.

Pest Risk Assessment (PRA) for the Importation of Honey Bees from Australia to the United States of America

Prior to the discovery of varroa jacobsoni in New Zealand, Australia had recently received for review a draft PRA which was the final impediment to be removed to allow the importation of honey bees from Australia into the United States.  It was hoped that this would be completed and be placed on the register prior to 1st April 2000.  It is understood that this has been completed, however, at this time it has not been gazetted.

The Act of August 31, 1922, entitled “An Act to regulate foreign commerce in the importation into the United States (US) of the adult honey bee (Apis mellifera)” ( referred to hereinafter as the Honeybee Act of 1922), prohibits the entry of honey bees from countries where diseases and parasites are known to exist that endanger the health of honey bees.  Additional amendments and regulations, promulgated by the Department of Agriculture, extended the Act to prohibit the importation of all life stages of the genus Apis, expanded the prohibition to prevent the entry of diseases and pests that endanger the health of honey bees and undesirable germplasm.  Regulations promulgated under the Honeybee Act are published in Title 7 CFR Part 322.

The diseases, pest and germplasm specifically identified in the Honeybee Act and amendments, including regulations under the Federal Plant Pest Act entitled Exotic Bee Diseases and Parasites (Title 7 CFR Part 319.76) are as follows:

Exotic Bee Parasites:

 Acarapis woodi
 Varroa jacobsoni
 Tropilaelaps clareae
 Euvarroa sinhai

Exotic Bee Diseases:

 Aspergillus spp
 Bacillus spp
 Entomophthora spp
 Beauvaria spp
 Cordyceps spp
 Saccharomyces spp

Following the discovery of varroa in New Zealand, there will be now great pressure applied to Canada by the US to have the ban on live bees from the mainland US lifted.  Currently both Australia and New Zealand supply live bees to Canada.  Canada currently maintains a ban on importation of live bees from the US.  One would expect the US beekeepers who supply live bees to undercut the price to recapture the market share they enjoyed before the ban was put in place in the late 80’s.  This could price Australia out of the market.

Accordingly, AHBIC has made representations to the Minister for Trade to seek his assistance in opening the US market to trade from Australia.

AHBIC Executive Meeting 24th - 25th May 2000

The AHBIC Executive will meet on 24th and 25th May 2000 in Sydney.  Issues for discussion include the AHBIC Review which is to be undertaken by Carolyn Tanner of the University of Sydney.  Other matters on the agenda include quality assurance in the industry, a draft selection committee by industry and RIRDC to appoint members to the HBRDC and the majority of the day of 25th will be used to consider the issues regarding ongoing research into pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs).

Should members wish to have agenda items placed before the Executive, they should not hesitate to contact the AHBIC office in order that this may be put in place.

NSW Beekeeping Inquiry

Members should be aware that the NSW Government has initiated an inquiry into the keeping of bee hives within densely populated residential areas.  The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Local Government will undertake the inquiry which will address the following terms of reference:

1. Identify the extent to which bees are kept in urban areas of New South Wales.

2. Assess the level of risk to humans posed by keeping of bees in these areas.

3. Identify the benefits of the current level of apiary activity in this area.

4. Identify and assess the adequacy of existing regulatory and non-regulatory measures.

5. Make recommendations on any additional measures which should be taken by State Government, Local Government and/or industry and, if regulatory measures are recommended, an appropriate process for public consultation and development of the regulatory scheme.

The closing date for submissions is 30th April 2000 and should be forwarded to Dr Regina Fogarty at NSW Agriculture, Locked Bag 21, Orange, 2800.  AHBIC is preparing a submission which will be submitted to this inquiry and we are currently assisting amateur beekeepers in NSW to put forward submissions to protect their hobby and to allow the continued presence of bees in residential areas.

Industry Video

AHBIC now has available the industry video.  Two versions are available - one which runs for  45 minutes and another which is a teaching video consisting of 13 segments.  These videos are available at a cost of $25.00 each from the AHBIC office.

On behalf of industry, we would like to express our thanks to Mrs Shirley Stephens, Messrs Geoff Manning and Bruce White and other members who provided input and contributed to the successful completion of the video.

Animal Health Australia

Animal Health Australia has released an updated discussion paper with the objective of developing new national arrangements to facilitate rapid response, emergency control and eradication of diseases with funding provided through a partnership with the Commonwealth Government, State and Territory Governments and the relevant livestock industries.

The key principles contained in the discussion paper include those previously agreed at previous meetings.  The principles contained include:-

(i) immediate reporting of suspected serious disease and rapid response;
(ii) disease capable of being eradicated and/or contained;
(iii) beneficiary pays for equitable burden sharing;
(iv) no-one better or worse off as a result of reporting an incident;
(v) certainty in funding and compensation;
(vi) consistency, integration and efficiency;
(vii) stakeholders who bear the cost of incursion management should have a role in decision making;
(viii) accountability to stakeholders who fund incursion management;  and
(ix) simplicity.

AHBIC continues to negotiate through Animal Health Australia with the view that, along with other livestock industries, a final agreement can be reached by 30th June 2000.

Lebanon Efforts Continuing

Following the decision of the Lebanese Government to unilaterally place tariffs on Australian honey entering the country, AHBIC has made strong representation to the Minister for Trade, Hon Mark Vaile with a view to having this situation rectified.

The situation to date is that the Australian ambassador to Lebanon is to have discussions with government officials in Lebanon with a view to seeking the reduction of tariffs on honey being imported into that country. 

Should members be experiencing similar difficulties in Lebanon, please do not hesitate to contact the AHBIC office.

Disease Control Brochures

Your attention is drawn to the publication by NSW Agriculture of the brochure “Pests and Diseases of Honeybees - a Field Diagnosis Guide”.  Following a request AHBIC, NSW Agriculture has made this publication available to industry and other State Departments.  We believe the brochure is an important mechanism for pursuing the industry’s disease control programme and it is commended to you.  Details are as follows:  Your local contact numbers and logos can be included in a print run and printing costs are detailed below.

Number     Standard Including      Your Logo
1,000             $750.00                 $900.00
2,500             $1,250.00              $1,500.00
5,000             $2,100.00              $2,300.00

Orders should be placed direct with:-  Lyn South
      NSW Agriculture
      Locked Bag 21
      ORANGE   NSW   2800
      Ph: 02 6391 3750
      Fax: 02 6391 3551
      Email: lyn.south@agric.nsw.gov.au

AHBIC Conference

The AHBIC Conference and Annual General Meeting will be held at the Park Regis Hotel, Southport, Queensland on 10th and 11th July, 2000.  Delegates will need to make their own arrangements for accommodation by calling 1800 644 851.  A group booking has been made and it should be mentioned when booking that the accommodation will be for attendance at the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council Conference.

There will be a de-briefing concerning the recent Asian bee incursions on Sunday 9th July

The Conference this year will be hosted by Queensland Beekeepers Association (QBA) whose Annual Conference will be held on 6th - 8th July 2000 at Southport RSL.  Anyone interested in attending this Conference, please make contact with Bob Johnson (Ph: 07 5445 7512 Fax: 07 5478 6880) for further details.

Shippers Reminded of Their Obligations

AHBIC has received correspondence from the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Hon Warren Truss, in relation to greater efforts being made by ship captains to ensure that their ships do not bring in exotic pests and diseases.  Following on from AHBIC’s request that this matter be addressed, the officers of the Minister for Agriculture have indicated that a meeting has now been held with the industry group representing ship captains to remind them of their legal obligations on entering Australian ports.

We are particularly keen that this should be enforced following the discovery of varroa jacobsoni in New Zealand and the need for increased vigilance by Australia to ensure that the country remains free of exotic diseases.

Additional matters referred to in the Minister’s correspondence include:-

(i) increased scrutiny of vessels from Papua New Guinea
(ii) reminder to agents and vessels masters not to make false declarations in regard to quarantine clearance

“Existing quarantine clearance arrangements include a requirement for masters to ensure that their vessel and cargo have been examined for the presence of bees and if any are discovered, this must be reported.  As a result of the recent bee incursions, the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) shipping officers have been reminding shipping agents of the importance of conducting a thorough vessel check to comply with Australian quarantine requirements.  AQIS is also reminding shipping agents and vessel masters of the significant penalties associated with making false declarations in regard to quarantine clearance.

In respect of vessels and cargo from Papua New Guinea (PNG), a delegation from the PNG Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) recently met with AQIS and renewed cooperative quarantine arrangements under the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS).  During the meeting AQIS raised Australian concerns over the potential for introduction of the Asian honey bee and in particular the threat presented by vessels that travel to Australia from the port of Lae.  DAL agreed to an AQIS proposal to examine risk reduction measures for the Asian honey bee at PNG ports as a cooperative project of mutual benefit.  A visit by AQIS and Queensland Department of Primary Industries officers to Lae will evaluate the feasibility of establishing a risk reduction programme in conjunction with DAL personnel.”

Industry Debrief

Members are advised that your Executive Director and Chairman, together with representative from the Queensland industry, held a debrief with AQIS and Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QDPI) officers on Thursday 29th March 2000 regarding the recent incursions into the Port of Brisbane.  The debrief was held to capture significant learning from the recent incursions including a swarms of Apis cerana at Hamilton and Brisbane and a swarm of Apis dorsata at Fisherman Island.  The former incidents involved full response and were considered in detail.  The later incidents were considered in conjunction with the issues arising from the earlier exercise.

AHBIC would like to place on record its thanks to the QDPI and AQIS for participating in this debrief. Issues were identified as a result of the incursion and lessons learned in relation to industry and government response.

Following these incursions, discussions have been held with the Ausvet Writing Group and it is now proposed that a national debrief be held on Sunday 9th July 2000 prior to the Annual Conference at Southport, Queensland.  It is hoped to build on the process of the Queensland debrief with a view to ensuring that the lessons learned are applied on a national basis so that future incursion efforts can be handled in the most satisfactory manner.

Membership of Plant Health Australia

Members are advised that AHBIC has now been accepted as an associate member of Plant Health Australia Limited.  Plant Health Australia has been established as a sister organisation of Animal Health Australia with a view to establishing guidelines for incursion management in the plant industry.

Following AHBIC’s discussions with Animal Health Australia and the various government bodies, it was suggested that AHBIC join Plant Health Australia with a view to reaching agreement on plant industry contributions to incursions affecting the bee industry.  An initial meeting of Plant Health Australia is yet to be held, however, the acting secretariat has advised that our application for associate membership has been accepted.  Further details will be made known when they become available.

Readiness Plan

Members may be aware that AHBIC has previously sent a draft Readiness Plan to State Associations for input and comment.  Following this input, the Readiness Plan is now being finalised and will shortly be sent to all delegates.

It is envisaged that the plan will be produced in loose leaf form and will be updated as and when changes occur.  It is envisaged that the document will be a “living document” and will be updated on a regular basis.


Crop Report - South Australia

The potential for serious problems with locusts in the coming spring is already being addressed by the Primary Industries and Resources SA - locust control programme together with the Australian Plague Locust Commission.

A spraying programme commenced in early April.  Producers and pastoralists have been assisting by reporting locust sites and densities.  An unusual feature this year is that swarms are on the wing in the daytime instead of at night - one such swarm estimated at the height of 1500 metres took an hour to pass over a given place being an estimated 20km in length.  Locust infestations have been reported right across the upper region of South Australia and have already moved into built-up areas where apiaries are present.  Land holders have commenced spraying early crops at risk and all beekeepers need to be aware of the serious risk to their hives.  This infestation of locusts is the worst experienced by the control programme and is thought to be one of the worst in recorded history.  The apiary industry is able to liaise with the personnel of the control programme, two apiarists being on a community reference group dealing with locusts and grasshoppers.

South East - Bees are being placed in scrub sites.  Some sites which received summer rain are starting to yield.  Bees are starting to breed on Styphila.

Barossa - Most commercial apiarists are moving to banksia sites in the South East.  There has been a good early germination of Salvation jane in the Barossa region, the best for a number of year.  This will need follow up rains for good spring prospects.

West Coast - Upper  Euc.diversifolia in the lower part of this region is yielding honey in some areas.  Ground floras have benefited from thunderstorms.
 Lower  Lincoln weed still yielding pollen.  Euc diversifolia yielding a breeding flow and some sites yielding honey.

Riverland - A good early spring can be expected after good opening rains, the earliest for many years.  Some white mallee well budded, just waiting for pollen producing plants to flower.

Central - String bark patchy.  No prospects until spring.  Pollination contracts now completed in the Central Region.  Bees fared well but adverse weather conditions affected the crop result.

Northern - Lower  Breeding flow on potato weed.  There are odd patches of white mallee budded.  There is patchy budding on the blue gum for spring and an early germination of Salvation jane but follow up rains will be needed.
 Upper Patchy rains with some early germination for spring ground flora.  Some grey box yielding.

Quarantine Report

Varroa in New Zealand

The big news for the month was the finding of Varroa in New Zealand.  At this time they are calling it V. jacobsoni but they have not determined if it is in fact jacobsoni or the newly described destructor.

Exports of live bees from New Zealand have been suspended.  This came at a very bad time for the Canadian market.  The Canadians have been sending emails and faxes to Australia trying to get packages and queen bees to make up the shortfall.  I have been told that Canada is looking to maybe allow imports from New Zealand again but only to certain areas and under a strict protocol.

They are still carrying out surveys in New Zealand to determine how widespread the varroa might be.

AHBIC has written to Minister Truss asking for extra surveillance for items coming out of New Zealand and to air our concerns about the slowness of the Australian Public Risk Assessment (PRA) being prepared by the United States of America. 

One of the possible outcomes of this find in New Zealand is that the border between mainland USA and Canada could be opened to live bees.  If this was to occur, then the sale of live bees by the United States mainland would probably be done with the Australian price being under cut so the USA could again capture the market.  This would make Australia uncompetitive and we need to look to other markets to replace any losses we would sustain if Canada was to go along this line of action.

Public Risk Assessment (PRA) 

As I write this, I have received a copy of the latest PRA prepared by the USA.  It is hoped that by the time you read this, it will have been gazetted and we are on the road to being able to export live bees to the USA.

There is still some way to go with public comments being sought on the PRA and then assessments made of those comments.  It is hoped that we will have access for the next season i.e beginning of 2001.

Lae Inspection

Dr. Jonathan Lee from Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) and Dr. Jack Shield from Queensland Department of Primary Industry (QDPI) have recently undertaken a survey of Lae.  This was carried out as the two recent incursions of Apis cerana originated from Lae.  The report will be available shortly.

Trevor Weatherhead -Chairman - Quarantine Sub-Committee

Queensland Resource Report

Since last month’s report I have had some discussions with an officer of the EPA about what is happening with the RFA.  It seems that the 425,000 ha from which logging has been excluded, will become Forest Reserve.  This tenure will remain in force for a maximum of five years during which time the final tenure will be decided.  A new tenure is being created, called National Park (Recovery).  The tenures will be:  National Park (Scientific);  National Park;  National Park (Recovery);  Conservation Park; and Resources Reserve.

A draft Bill has been drawn up to go to parliament to enable this to happen.  Any areas which become National Park (Scientific), National Park, or National Park (Recovery) will not have apiary sites renewed.  The QBA will have a long, hard battle to keep these sites operational and we need all the support we can get.  We will have to argue the case on an area by area basis or, at time, a site by site basis.  At present, negotiations are not proceeding while the Government tries to get some idea of the Native Title implications for each type of tenure.

The management principles for a forest reserve are to:-
(a) protect the biological diversity and conservation values of land included in the reserve having regard to the purpose of this part;
(b) provide for the continuation of any lawful existing use of the land, other than for commercial logging (i.e. Apiculture);  and
(c) ensure all uses of the land under an authority granted, made or renewed in relation to the forest reserve are -
(i) ecologically sustainable;  and
(ii) if the land is a proposed protected area, consistent with the management principles for the class of protected area that the land is proposed to become.

A National Park (Recovery) will be an area which is thought to have good conservation values which will be improved if recovery plans are put in place.  This may include clearing strips of plantation which intrude into these areas to allow them to regenerate back to natural forest.

Duncan McMartin - Resource Committee Chairman

New South Wales - Crop Report

Some small pockets of mugga ironbark in the central west and the south west are yielding quite well.  Napungah in the north west is not as well budded as was expected because of the heavy rain in the area.  Stingy bark is well budded in the south but is patchy in the central west.

New South Wales - Stock Report

Very little change from the last report with most beekeepers holding little honey.

Eddie Podmore

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