Tuesday 13 August 2019

Hansard of the Legislative Council

Bees, Pollination and Education


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam Deputy President, 'if the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, humans would only have four years left to live'.  That comment is attributed to Albert Einstein, who was stressing the vital roles bees play in pollinating the fruit and vegetables we eat.  If pollination by bees ceased, food production would be cut drastically.  There are other forms of pollination by other insects, and even wind, but bees are the mainstay pollinators.  I heard on ABC Radio the other day that scientists are experimenting with flies as pollinators.

Tasmanian beekeepers play an important role in moving hives to orchards and farms for spring pollination.  The fees they charge are an important part of their income.

Bees are under threat.  The threats are many - diseases, the varroa mite, which fortunately has not spread into Australia, and insecticides such as neonicotinoids, which are banned in some countries. 

Given the importance of bee pollination to food production and the fact that bees are under threat, many in the honey industry believe people should be more aware of the functions of bee populations.  This being Tasmania, with its unique leatherwood resources, they believe the general population should be more aware of bees' vital role in the Tasmanian honey industry.  Two such honey producers operate in my electorate of Rosevears.  Tristan and Rebecca Campbell have a beekeeping venture with 350 hives and a shop in Exeter, right next to the pub.  Originally from the United States, they moved to Tasmania in 2000 because of, as Rebecca says, its island magnetism, its uniqueness and its clean, green environment and lifestyle.

Their appreciation of the intricacies of nature led them to beekeeping, starting with just one hive in 2003.  Their bees pollinate a Tamar Valley cherry farm in September, then they move around the Tamar Valley following nectar sources such as prickly box, peppermint gum, manuka, blackberry and stringybark.  Their retail outlet is a large former shed, which has two hives built into its walls with glass viewing windows and another two hives outside the shop.  Rebecca Campbell says this is a good educational tool because visitors can see exactly what the bees are doing.  My grandkids love it.  She believes more and more people are beginning to understand how important bees are for food production and the environment.  The shop is often visited by school groups and aged care groups, while garden groups and tourist groups are also welcome.

A group of beekeepers, including the Campbells, are supporting a three-year PhD study into the medicinal properties of leatherwood.  The entire Tasmanian industry is concerned about the leatherwood source.  Last season was a disaster.  The trees on the west coast usually bloom for six weeks but this year the trees dried up within five days.  Tasmanian beekeepers already have access to all the leatherwood areas on the west coast except those in the World Heritage Area.  Rebecca Campbell says at some point the powers that be will have to consider allowing beekeepers access to the World Heritage areas.  Whatever the future of the leatherwood resource, especially with climate change, educating the public about the vital roles of bees is an industry priority.