Victorian Bee Biosecurity Officer update November 2020

This update provides an overview Victorian Bee Biosecurity Officer (BBO) Ally Driessen’s main activities since mid-2020.

Ally Driessen, Victorian Bee Biosecurity Officer

Advice for spring beekeeping

In spring, Ally recommends beekeepers start conducting brood inspections. Look for (American and European) foulbrood prior to any splits, otherwise you risk spreading pests and diseases. Spring is also a good time to start rotating old brood frames. Remove old, thick, heavily gnawed and broken combs from the hive as good combs are essential for maximum worker brood.

If you’re catching, or have caught, a swarm they may carry pests and diseases. It’s best to place hived swarms in a separate apiary where the bees and brood can be regularly checked for signs of disease for at least three months. It’s also a good idea to place the swarm in an old box until its health has been established.

Ally says calls from local councils have increased. She has been supporting them and beekeepers via the Victorian Apiary Code of Practice. Residential Victorian beekeepers should follow this code to ensure their bees don’t become a nuisance to surrounding people, property and domestic animals. Open communication between you and your neighbours is vital to a harmonious relationship.

There have also been calls from non-beekeepers regarding bee deaths. As we come out of winter, worker bees who have lived through the winter begin to die. Many calls have involved educating the public about the bee life cycle, as well as gathering information about local flowering plants and potential chemical use in the area.

Almond pollination

With an estimated 140,000 hives attending Victoria’s almond orchards for the 2020 pollination season, Ally was busy working with beekeepers, brokers, and orchard managers to ensure the season was a largely disease free and positive experience for all. She also worked with the Almond Board of Australia on a video to promote bee biosecurity and ensure that only healthy hives are used to pollinate almonds.

Pests and disease notifications

Ally has also supported and educated beekeepers who have notified Agriculture Victoria of suspected pests and diseases. They were mostly cases of suspected American foulbrood, however, as Victoria is experiencing a start-stop spring, nosema, chalkbrood and European foulbrood have also been on the rise.

If you suspect you have found a notifiable pest or disease you must notify an Agriculture Victoria Apiary Officer via the Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or by emailing [email protected]

Victorian beekeepers should also update their sugar shake test results by logging in at bees.agriculture.vic.gov.au

BeeMax enhancements

Ally has been working to enhance Victoria’s digital bee platform, BeeMax. Feedback collated at club meetings has been used to improve measurement, analysis and reporting of Victorian honey bee health data. More importantly, the platform has enabled registered apiarists to log their compliance, surveillance and emergency preparedness activities.

COVID-19 restrictions

Currently many Victorians are feeling fatigued, isolated or lonely. However, Victorian beekeepers have found ways to continue to get together, connect, share knowledge and offer support via online club meetings. Ally has enjoyed presenting at these meetings as it has been a great way to stay connected with the community, educate and gather feedback.

Stay up to date with Victoria’s COVID-19 restrictions by visiting dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus