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Hort Innovation News and events Media Releases Buzzworthy quest: Uncovering stingless bees’ perfect pollination cuisine
Media Release

Buzzworthy quest: Uncovering stingless bees’ perfect pollination cuisine

Publication date: 9 August 2023

Scientists are tracking Australian native stingless bees to determine what they like to eat, and how diet impacts overall hive health and their ability to pollinate crops effectively.

The work follows the discovery of Varroa Mite in New South Wales in 2022, which has impacted horticulture growers’ access to the nation’s most common crop pollinator, the European Honey Bee.

Delivered through Hort Innovation and led by Western Sydney University and Griffith University in partnership with key commercial stingless beekeepers and industry partners, the program will contribute to the growing pool of knowledge about the commercial management and capabilities of alternative pollinators.

Hort Innovation chief executive officer Brett Fifield said the program is being driven by the brightest minds in pollination research and is vital to safeguarding the future of Australian horticulture products.

“The incursion of Varroa Mite has placed us in a position where we have had to reassess how we think about pollination,” Mr Fifield said. “Unlocking the potential of alternative pollinators, like the stingless bee, is going to be instrumental in providing the horticulture sector with new crop pollinating options.”

Western Sydney University Professor James Cook said the project will identify the nutritional choices of stingless bees by detecting the pollen species and essential nutrients collected during their foraging activities.

“We are exploring the relationship between stingless bees’ dietary choices and their colonies’ wellbeing,” Prof Cook said. “By understanding this relationship, we can identify new opportunities to optimise hive health, such as introducing nutritional supplements into stingless bees’ colonies, and thereby improve propagation of the bees and pollination services.”

In addition to working on stingless bee nutrition, crop pollination trials will be conducted at a state-of-the-art research glasshouse at the National Vegetable Protected Cropping Centre on the Western Sydney University Hawkesbury campus. Crops such as avocados, macadamias, strawberries, mangos, and lychees may be investigated during this project. The pioneering research will include both laboratory and field studies, as well as behavioural experiments with stingless bees.

Sugarbag Bees’ Business Owner and Beekeeper Tim Heard said the facility’s experimental hives dedicated to bee rearing will equip beekeepers with knowledge to propel stingless bee management to new heights.

“This research is fascinating and holds immense potential for enhancing crop pollination,” Dr Heard said. “By equipping beekeepers with valuable knowledge about rearing and managing these incredible pollinators, we will pave a sustainable future for beekeeping and as a result, the horticulture industry.”

Research into maintaining honey bee health and boosting alternative pollination methods is a priority for Hort Innovation, with $61M of investments currently underway across various activities, including the development of a Varroa mite pesticide that is safe for bees.

This project addresses several of the key priorities within the AgriFutures Australian Native Bee Strategic RD&E Plan. The increased co-investment partnering with Hort Innovation provides increased investment capacity and a greater return on investment for industry.

Media Manager
Lauren Jones
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