An increase in the number of managed hives available for crop pollination is crucial to the continued prosperity of the Australian horticultural industry. Further development of the managed pollination sector will also provide important opportunities for the honey bee industry. However, a significant barrier in this regard has been the risk that beekeepers face in relation to honey bee pesticide poisoning.
Pesticide poisoning events of managed hives have occurred in Australia, and they have mainly occurred from a chemical toxic to bees being inappropriately applied to flowers in a crop, or from spray drift from neighbouring paddocks.
Although it is important to put in place mechanisms to ensure that these instances do not occur, it is also important to understand how to respond to a honey bee pesticide poisoning event if they do occur. The information contained below summarises some of the symptoms that may be associated with the hives, how to best manage hives in affected areas, as well as information about who to report the matter to for investigation.
The action that a beekeeper takes will most likely be determined by the severity of the poisoning event and the beekeeper’s relationship with the farmer concerned, or other farmers in the area. Always remember that bees can fly over 5 km, so the poisoning event may not have occurred with the farmer that the beekeeper is working with, it could be a neighbour for instance who does not know that there are bees in the area. Regardless however, it is a good idea to collect samples that can be sent to a laboratory for analysis if required. Proper investigation is important to ensure that farmers, who have done the right thing, are not unfairly blamed. There are three types of samples that can be taken:
Providing a swab sample from the outside of the hive is appropriate if you suspect that a chemical has come directly into contact with the hives (eg spray drift or aerial application), whereas the other two sample types should be taken for all poisoning events. The following things should be considered when collecting samples:
For a summary of the information to include and what symptoms to record, download the Pesticide poisoning report. This report is an extract from Honeybee pesticide poisoning: a risk management tool for Australian farmers and beekeepers, published by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.
Any adverse experiences should be reported either to the relevant state or territory government agency or to the APVMA’s Adverse Experience Reporting Program on 1800 700 588.
The information on the pesticides toxic to honey bees is from Daryl Connelly (2012) Honey bee pesticide poisoning – a risk management tool for Australian farmers and beekeepers, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Publication 12/043.
|State or territory||Contact details|
|New South Wales|| Environmental Protection Agency
|Northern Territory||Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Apiary Inspector
Phone: 08 8999 2036
|Queensland|| Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Biosecurity Queensland
Phone: 132 523
|South Australia|| Department of Primary Industries and Resources, Senior Apiary Inspector
Phone: 08 8207 7975
|Tasmania|| Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Spray Referral Unit
Phone: 1800 005 244
|Victoria|| Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Senior Apiary Inspector
Phone: 136 186
|Western Australia|| Department of Agriculture and Food, Plant Biosecurity