Killer beetle hits bees and crops
FRASER Coasters are being urged to unite to fight a beetle that invades beehives before more than 250,000 jobs are lost across the state.
“Up until now we have only had anecdotal evidence to suggest the small hive beetle is affecting the pollination of backyard, horticultural and agricultural crops throughout Queensland,” Primary Industries, Fisheries and Rural and Regional Queensland Minister Tim Mulherin said.
“With two in every three mouthfuls of food needing pollination by agents such as the honeybee, we are keen to gather data to accurately assess the wider impact this serious pest might be having on our food production.
“Without pollination our food supply chain would effectively collapse.
“This would have drastic ramifications for Queensland’s economy with one in eight jobs in the workforce either partially or entirely supported by the agricultural supply chain.
“This equates to more than 250,000 Queensland jobs in the food supply chain which would be affected.”
The small hive beetle has become endemic throughout most of eastern Queensland, where it has destroyed many beehives in the last two years.
The Fraser Coast’s commercial growers and backyard gardeners can take part in a bee pollination survey to help fight the pest.
An online survey asks these target groups what they grow, whether they have noticed a decrease in the number of bees and/or in their yields in recent years.
Researchers were particularly interested to hear from people who had vegetable patches in their backyards.
“There are thousands of backyard vegetable patches throughout eastern Queensland,” Mr Mulherin said.
“Declining yields don’t just affect big producers and many people with vegetable patches might not be aware of the important role bees play in pollination.
“Many backyard vegetable growers mightn’t know their plants aren’t producing fruit, or the fruit died on the vine, because the flowers weren’t pollinated.
“Some people with vegetable patches might’ve noticed a decrease in yields over the past two years in common produce such as zucchini, squash and pumpkins.
“We also want to hear from people who routinely self pollinate their vegetables, or those who have started self pollination.”
The beetle is an exotic pest from South Africa and was first detected in Australia in 2002 and the beetles are spreading at an alarming rate, often up to 15km a day.
Beetle larvae feed on baby bees, pollen and honey and totally destroy the hive when large numbers of larvae build up.
In the last year alone, 734 Queensland beekeepers reported more than $2.1 million in hive losses due to the pest.