Get buzz on bee research

Perth commuters and visitors to the city are encouraged to make a bee-line to the Murray Street Mall on Thursday 20 May to celebrate World Bee Day 2021.

World Bee Day aims to spread awareness of the significance of bees, with bees pollinating most of the crops we eat and nearly two thirds of Australia’s agriculture production benefiting from bees. Unfortunately there has been extraordinary declines in bees around the world in recent years.

A bee flora display in Murray Street Mall will feature a safely enclosed bee hive, as well as bee experts to enlighten visitors about research efforts to foster and protect the Australian honey bee industry.

Visitors will be able learn about research to support the safety and integrity of honey products, including recent enhancements to the B-QUAL quality assurance system by the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Honey Bee Products, a team of researchers funded by the Federal Government.

The University of Western Australia (UWA) and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPRID) are CRC participants, which have been working to augment B-QUAL – a program that guides best practice to aid the continuous improvement of bee businesses and industry.

CRC CEO Liz Barbour, from the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment, said the upgraded digital system would help beekeepers maintain records to assist their businesses to grow and develop.

“B-QUAL was originally developed as a food safety program to meet quality assurance requirements for both domestic and export markets and captured tracking and tracing data, as well as biosecurity and hygiene information,” Dr Barbour said.

“Recent modifications have been made to enable beekeepers to benchmark so they can make informed management decisions to improve their business and offer customers quality assured honey bee products.

“This system is now inclusive of all beekeepers, with the smaller beekeepers able to being to a self-auditing system B-Trace, which importantly records biosecurity observations critical for maintaining Australia’s bee health.”

The B-QUAL system also now links to extensive flora mapping throughout Australia, which is being modified into a bee flora management decision tool.

The tool takes into account forest logging, burn intensity and how quickly the vegetation recovers to assist hive placement planning.

“This link to flowering and honey production is proving to be a powerful aspect of the tool that has attracted interest from biodiversity researchers interested in vegetation recovery from bushfires of varying intensities,” Dr Barbour said.

The CRC partners are also working on a extending the B-QUAL system to include a new function that details honey chemistry to provide customers with confidence in the provenance of the product they are purchasing.

“Every beekeeper has a different story to tell about how the characteristics of their honey product and how it is unique,” Dr Barbour said.

“The testing will help to align honey characteristics with the product to provide customers a more authentic understanding.”

DPIRD staff will also be on hand at the Murray Street Mall display to talk about the department’s involvement in the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program.

The program has 44 sentinel hives located at ports at Fremantle, Derby, Geraldton, Kwinana, Bunbury, Albany and Esperance, as well as Perth Airport to detect swarms of exotic bees that could threaten the State’s enviable biosecurity status.

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