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25 July, 2022

Compensation fund includes recreational beekeepers

By Sharon Bonthuys

The important role that recreational and hobbyist beekeepers play in the multi-million dollar honey bee industry, which includes preventing the spread of the varroa mite, has been recognised by their inclusion in state and federal compensation arrangements announced last week.

On July 9, an $18 million industry support package was announced that will see registered commercial beekeepers reimbursed for all equipment, hives and bees that are destroyed in the eradication process, as well as the costs of honey.

Composed of commonwealth and state governments, pollination dependent industries and the honey bee industry, the national management group (NMG) for emergency plant pests endorsed a national response plan to eradicate the varroa mite from NSW.

The NMG also endorsed compensation for licensed recreational beekeepers in recognition of their critical role in the response to this incursion. This is welcome news to the Amateur Beekeepers Association (ABA), which provides information and support to 33 clubs throughout NSW and beyond, including almost 5000 amateur beekeepers. Orana Beekeepers is one of these member clubs.

“We’re heartened to see the minister, the DPI, commercial apiarists and the honey bee industry council all recognise that recreational beekeepers play a critical part in making this eradication effort a success,” said ABA vice-president, Sue Carney.

Federal minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry, Murray Watt said of the NMG agreement, “we are firmly committed to the national response plan. Varroa mite is the most significant threat to our honey bee and pollination industries and we unanimously agree that it is both technically feasible and economically beneficial to remove it from our shores.”

NSW agriculture minister Dugald Saunders said eradication is the primary goal, and the NSW DPIs’ strong initial response measures and contact tracing work have made this possible.

“We still have an unbroken chain of infected premises and have extensive surveillance operations in place to find and destroy any further cases,” minister Saunders said.

“I want to thank the entire beekeeping community for their commitment and vigilance during this time.

“This significant funding shows the critical role all beekeepers have played, including hobbyists, in helping us to manage and contain the spread of this parasite. The individual costs of reimbursement will vary and figures will be assessed on a case-by-case basis because no two hives are the same and may contain a different amount of honey or be made of varying materials,” minister Saunders said.

Ms Carney said her association’s members were anxious but hopeful as the response to the varroa biosecurity threat continues.

“Recreational beekeepers are understandably anxious about how this is all going to play out, but they are really keen to do whatever they can to help.

“Dozens of our members from all over have already volunteered on the emergency response teams, checking hives in the zones nearest known varroa sites.

“Dozens more have put their names down to volunteer.”

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