Ensuring our food security
Bees are so important to our livelihood as they help to pollinate most of the crops we eat and many that feed farm livestock. In fact, nearly two-thirds of Australia’s agricultural production benefits from honey bee pollination.
But bee populations are under threat. Destruction of their natural habitat, intensive farming practices, and pests and diseases are just some of the complex reasons driving a decline in both the number and diversity of bees.
Honey bees are the most widespread managed pollinator having co-evolved with our food
Without bees, our food security is at risk. That’s why food security needs bee security.
Bolstering Ecosystem Health
Bees are keystone species. They play a vital role in preserving biodiversity and ecosystem health and without them, many ecosystems would be altered or cease to exist altogether.
There are over 20,000 species of bee that exist globally and Australia is home to around 2,000 species of native bee. These bees have co-evolved with our unique native flora over thousands of years.
Without bees, our ecosystems are at risk. That’s why biodiversity needs bee security.
Beekeeping: an industry of vital importance
While beekeeping is a relatively small industry, it plays a significant role within the agricultural sector. It is essential, not just for honey and other hive products such as bees wax, but more importantly for the pollination services provided by bees.
Numerous studies show that the addition of bees at a time when plants are flowering significantly increases both the yield and quality of crops.
Honey and other hive products generate around $100 million per year in Australia. The contribution of honey bees to agriculture through pollination services is estimated to be 140 times this figure and was valued at around $14.2 billion in Australia in 2017.
Although Apis mellifera (honey bee) is an introduced species in Australia, the majority of crops they pollinate have also been introduced and would struggle to be productive without honey bee pollination.
Native Bees and Beekeeping
Some native bee species are used for commercial crop pollination services. A few native bee species are suited to commercial crop pollination but only in warmer climates. Most native bee species are solitary and are not suited to commercial crop pollination. They do however play a vital role in the pollination of native plant species and they underpin ecosystem health.
Bees play an essential role in ensuring food security and ecosystem health
Our bees are under threat
Bees and other pollinators are under threat worldwide for a number of reasons, including:
Honey bees are susceptible to a number of diseases. With global movements and the intensification of farming practices, the prevalence of a number of bee diseases is increasing. Australia is, for now, the only continent that remains free from the Varroa destructor mite responsible for spreading viruses and contributing to large scale honey bee colony losses globally.
A loss of access to nesting sites, nectar and pollen resources impacts native bee populations. It also makes it difficult to impossible for commercial beekeepers to maintain a viable business and by extension to sustain enough healthy and strong hives for pollination services. Habitat destruction results from clear fell logging practices, and from urban encroachment. Beekeeper access to public lands is also impacted by government policies and varies widely from state to state.
Products like insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and fertilizers can all be highly toxic to bees, but many of these are commonly used in agriculture and horticulture impacting bee health and numbers.
Commercial beekeeper numbers are decreasing in Australia and across the world for a number of reasons including reduced access to resources, low honey prices with increasing production costs, an under-appreciation of the value of pollination services, and the impact of serious bee diseases.
You can help — donate now to help protect our bees.
Although honey bees are the most important pollinators for the majority of our crop species, native bees and other insect pollinators play important roles too. Many of these insects also face significant challenges.
Although the focus of the work of the Wheen Bee Foundation is bees, much of our work that will help alleviate the stresses faced by other non-bee pollinators.