Understanding practices in key pollination areas (MT13027)
What was it all about?
This project sought to better understand current pollination practices in the blueberry, apple and pear, and cherry industries. The primary aims of the project were to identify regionalised approaches and weaknesses in pollination practices, and highlight obstacles to adopting best practice.
Australia remains the last continent free from Varroa destructor which has decimated hives of honey bees overseas, but an incursion could bring problems not only for beekeepers, but also for many of our pollination-dependent industries as feral bee numbers decline.
This project, which ran from 2013 to 2014, involved two phases of social research: an online survey and four face-to-face interviews to find out what growers understand about insect pollination.
Growers were asked 24 questions including how important feral honey bees were to their business and the wider horticultural industry, and how they go about engaging and managing commercial pollination services. In the event of a Varroa destructor incursion, it is predicted that producers of some crops would be reliant on beekeepers bringing hives of bees to them.
Key messages identified from the survey and face-to-face interviews:
- Growers in the cherry, apple and pear, and blueberry industries have a high level of pollination awareness
- There is significant amount of reliance on feral honey bees for pollination of these crops, often due to financial constraints
- Relationships between beekeepers and growers are not generally underpinned by written, performance-based contracts, only verbal agreements
- Growers have a desire to gain more pollination-related skills and knowledge and to better understand the contribution native insects and bees make to the commodities they grow.
Recommendations from this project included for beekeepers and growers to work together to provide guidance on orchard design and hive placement to optimise pollination.