Published: 19 May 2022
The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) is a hive of activity on World Bee Day (20 May 2022) – a day to raise awareness of the significance of bees and pollination.
Bees play an important role in the pollination of agricultural crops and are essential for the ongoing productivity and growth of the industry, according to Entomologist at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), Dr Stephen Quarrell.
“Bees are essential if we want to eat more than just potatoes and corn. They provide an important pollination role for many agricultural crops including apples, cherries and berries – they basically fill our fruit bowls,” Dr Quarrell said.
“We are conducting multiple research projects to better understand how changes in agricultural practices, such as an increase in protected cropping systems, are impacting bee health and pollination.
“We want to safeguard against potential future threats, ensure resilient pollination systems, and explore opportunities to enhance pollination methods to increase the productivity of our agricultural industries.
“Tasmania needs resilient pollination systems to ensure we can continue to produce high quality produce.”
Current research includes:
Dr Stephen Quarrell is developing two planting guides to help Tasmanian land holders select the most appropriate native plant species to encourage pollinators on farms. The ‘Powerful Pollinators’ program aims to increase the prevalence, health and diversity of pollinators in the landscape.
The first guide will include information for landholders in Southern Tasmania and is expected to be released later this month.
Funding: The Wheen Bee Foundation is supported by funding from the Federal Government’s Landcares Smart Farms initiative.
Honey library for Tasmania
Project overview: TIA Research Fellow Dr Sandra Garland is collating the chemistry of Leatherwood and Tasmanian Manuka honey to input into the first-ever Australia-wide Honey Library coordinated through B-QUAL. This reference database will provide Tasmanian honey producers with proof of authenticity to support claims of uniqueness and provenance which are highly valued by consumers. This project has created a traceability link between consumers and beekeepers via Q-coded honey labels in an effort to combat honey fraud.
Funding: Cooperative Research Centre for Honey Bee Products, Tasmanian Beekeepers Association
PhD project: Understanding pollination and honey bee health under protected and contained environments
TIA PhD candidate Ryan Warren is using an insect-deployed Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system he has developed to detect subtle changes in hive health by monitoring individual bee activity in full strength beehives. This is the first time an RFID system has been used on full-strength bee hives that contain more than 30,000 bees.
His research aims to improve pollination and hive health under protected and contained cropping environments, including sweet cherry, and raspberry and in pollination intensive crops such as vegetable seeds.
Trials using the new RFID system were conducted with the support of industry in real-world environments in Tasmania.
Funding: Horticulture Innovation Australia, PhD Leaders in Horticulture Program
PhD project: Understanding the impact of fungicide application on pollination on bee heath
TIA PhD candidate MengYong is looking at the impact that fungicides used for plant disease in agricultural crops have on pollination including their impact on the viability of pollen carried by bees from flower-to-flower and how they affect bee behaviour and health. This includes bee gut health, which is linked to their ability to respond to many diseases.
Industry partners: Seed Purity and South Pacific Seeds.