During February, I took to the road to deliver the Bee Biosecurity Roadshow to spread bee biosecurity messages throughout Queensland. Travelling up the coast from Brisbane to north Queensland, I visited the Sunshine Coast, Gympie, Hervey Bay, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Tully and Townsville. I met with beekeepers and gave talks on checking hives for bee pests and diseases, and the Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice (the Code). When the weather permitted, talks were followed by demonstrations of undertaking a comprehensive hive inspection. As the Bee Biosecurity Officer is a relatively new position for Queensland, the roadshow was a fantastic opportunity to meet beekeepers throughout Queensland and build relationships within the industry.
In addition to the Bee Biosecurity Roadshow, I also gave talks and demonstrations to a number of beekeeping clubs in South East Queensland; including the Bayside Beekeepers Association (East Brisbane), the Ipswich and West Moreton Beekeepers Association, and the Warwick branch of the Queensland Beekeepers’ Association. When COVID-19 made it no longer possible to provide these talks in person, I moved online, giving webinars to the Southern Beekeepers Association (Toowoomba) and the Amateur Beekeepers’ Association Southern Downs (Warwick).
The restrictions that came with the outbreak of COVID-19 have brought both challenges and opportunities for communicating with Queensland beekeepers. One exciting opportunity was the development of a series of online bee biosecurity public talks in collaboration with the Digital Engagement and Systems team within the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF). Aimed at professional beekeepers and bee enthusiasts alike, the series of talks focused on bee biosecurity basics, brood diseases, mites and external parasites, submitting samples for disease testing, and the Code. The first talk had over 400 registrations, while the second had over 300 registrations. There has been a great turnout for the live events, with many people also watching the recorded sessions later. Each session has included special guests, including apiary officers, members of the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, the National Varroa Mite Eradication Program team and more.
As part of my outreach program, I had also planned to visit several schools to give talks on bee biosecurity. As I could no longer visit these schools in person to provide talks I partnered with the Ag-tech Innovation and Partnerships and Skills Policy group within DAF to develop a bee biosecurity module for secondary school students. This module included a pre-recorded lecture on bee biosecurity practices with video demonstrations of different bee biosecurity techniques and a short assessment for students to test their knowledge.
Over the last few months, I have developed and updated existing resources for honey beekeepers, including factsheets on general honey bee biosecurity practices, as well as specific pests and diseases. These resources have been developed to complement the resources available at the national level, and provide Queensland-specific information, for example about climate and legislation.
During the last few months, the time put into meeting with beekeepers across the state and undertaking online talks has paid off with more beekeepers being aware of the role of the Bee Biosecurity Officer and contacting me for help and advice. Especially pleasing, has been the contact from new beekeepers seeking advice how to set up sound beekeeping practices in their apiaries. I have also been following up with beekeepers who have received positive diagnoses for high priority pests and diseases like American foulbrood to ensure that they understood how to best manage their hive going forward.