Victoria prepares for 2021 almond pollination

Ally Driessen, Bee Biosecurity Officer, National Bee Biosecurity Program and Agriculture Victoria Apiary Team

Beekeepers participating in the 2021 almond pollination season are reminded to adequately prepare their hives so that they are healthy and strong to work in the orchards, and minimise the risk of spreading pests and diseases between hives.

Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice

Almond pollination season provides a strong economic boost to the apiary industry, but large numbers of hives moving into one area does increase biosecurity risk. The Code has been designed to provide a clear framework for all beekeepers to engage in biosecurity best-practice to help mitigate the risk.

If everyone complies with the Code, the risk of disease spread is reduced and the whole beekeeping industry benefits.

It is important to note that most of the Code is now law in Victoria. For more information about your legal requirements visit the Agriculture Victoria website.

Almond pollination preparation checklist

1. Make sure that your registration as a beekeeper is current and that your registered brand is clearly marked on all your hives. Check your Victorian registration details at:

2. Ensure that all your hives are structurally sound, have intact external surfaces and only have openings that are designed specifically for bees.

3. Inspect your brood regularly to check for pests and diseases. Remove any diseased or substandard hives from your load (don’t take them to almond pollination).

4. Test your hives for exotic parasites (such as varroa mite) using drone uncapping, sugar shake or alcohol wash methods. For more information about these tests, watch the videos in the Videos tab on this page

5. Communicate with your broker or grower with information about your apiaries, including expected hive numbers and their quality.

6. Maintain records of your inspections, tests, observations and actions (such as movement) as they relate to your hives. Keep records that will help you to go back to the source of a disease outbreak, to get it under control. (Download templates for record keeping)

7. Complete your annual honey culture test now. This is mandatory for beekeepers who own 50 or more hives. To order a test kit in Victoria, contact Gribbles Veterinary Pathology on 1300 307 190 or your Bee Biosecurity Officer, Ally on 0436 819 350.

8. To demonstrate to your broker or grower that you are compliant with the Code, provide them with completed and signed copy of the ‘Certification of Compliance’ document. It can be found on page 15 of the Code of Practice.

What is Agriculture Victoria doing?

Agriculture Victoria (AgVic) undertakes disease surveillance and compliance monitoring activities to reduce the biosecurity risk associated with almond pollination.

Prior to hives arriving at almond orchards, we carry out a desktop assessment of beekeepers attending pollination to gauge compliance levels and identify those who may pose a higher risk to others. During pollination, AgVic inspect hives to detect and contain any diseases present.

Pre-season desktop audits have started. AgVic are also increasing communications to help ensure that all beekeepers are aware of their responsibilities and have all the information they need to comply with the Code.

An adequate supply of strong and disease-free hives it is vital to the success of both beekeeping and almond producing businesses. AgVic is working with industry to mitigate the biosecurity risk posed by high densities of hives at almond pollination.

Acknowledgement: Ally Driessen, Bee Biosecurity Officer – Agriculture Victoria Apiary Team