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and education

Wheen Bee Foundation promotes awareness of the importance of bees for food security, and facilitates training programs and information for beekeepers. Some of the activities undertaken by The Wheen Bee Foundation include:

Supporting beekeepers & queen breeders

Since its establishment in 2009, the Foundation has supported regular accreditation courses for artificial insemination, queen rearing, disease management and general introductory workshops. Initially run from the Foundation’s property at Richmond NSW, support is now provided through the provision of laboratory equipment for use in training run by Tocal College.

We have held auctions of breeder queens selected from the former national stock improvement program, and provided financial support for other national queen breeder programs.

RIRDC-backed Bee Breeding Working Group
Queen rearing workshop at TWBF Richmond 2013

Awareness raising & bee-related advocacy

The Wheen Bee Foundation works with other stakeholders to promote bee health and food security in Australia.

The Foundation has made submissions into three Federal inquiries into beekeeping, liaised with RIRDC and HIA on research strategies, and co-funded and assisted with important publications by industry partners. These include:

The Foundation was instrumental in establishing Pollination Australia and in 2011 mounted the Food Security needs Bee Security campaign that was designed to lobby government to eradicate the Asian honey bee incursion in Cairns, Queensland.

Working towards a CRC on Honey Bees and Pollination Services

In 2011 the Wheen Bee Foundation was a major player in assessing the feasibility of submitting a competitive bid for a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) on Honey Bees and Pollination Services.

The Foundation financed a national workshop that brought together researchers, beekeepers, pollination-dependent industries and other funding agencies, to coordinate a competitive CRC bid, and committed $100,000 per year for the eight-year CRC cycle should the bid be successful. 

Despite enthusiasm and commitments from research agencies and beekeepers, there was insufficient support from pollination-dependent industries that stood to gain the major benefits from the CRC’s activities. 

Given the Government’s view that there should be significant buy-in by those industries that stood to benefit the most, the Foundation and other members of the bid team decided to postpone any bid until the pollination-dependent industries were prepared to financially support such a CRC. 

Though unsuccessful, it was an educational exercise for many players and places beekeepers, pollination-dependent industries and the research community in a better position to respond to future similar opportunities.

Safe importation of drone semen into Western Australia

For over three decades Western Australia has not permitted the importation of honey bees, honey, drone semen and other bee products into WA. This quarantine policy was put in place to minimise the risk of introducing diseases and pests that have reached the eastern states of Australia but are not present in WA.

Western Australian beekeepers have had to rely on local stock improvement programs – such as that run by Better Bees on Rottnest Island – which have played a significant role in supplying commercial beekeepers with quality genetic stock.

While the Wheen Bee Foundation supports the efforts of WA’s beekeepers to produce and distribute “Better Bees”, it also supports the safe importation of semen from the eastern states, New Zealand and elsewhere – as long as the risk of introducing exotic pests, diseases, or Africanised genes is effectively eliminated. 

Recent evidence that some viruses, such as Deformed Wing Virus, can be transmitted via sperm and adversely affect the health of recipient queens, heightens the need for rigorous quarantine to exclude accidental importation of any exotic virus.

In 2012, Ron Clark, a commercial beekeeper in WA, with the support of the WA State Department of Agriculture, obtained approval to import genetic material from one of Australia’s leading queen breeders, Joe Horner. This was in the form of drone semen collected under sterile conditions at Joe’s queen rearing facility near Orange, NSW.

Ron acquired his AI (artificial insemination) skills at a course run by the Wheen Bee Foundation in Richmond, and used the Foundation’s equipment to collect the semen from Joe Horner’s bees.

The resulting breeding stock was held in quarantine in the Department’s apiary to confirm that no diseases were detectable.  Preliminary results for this project were published in the December 2012 issue of Bee Informed.

Ron is now planning to import drone semen from New Zealand and have it tested for various viruses under quarantine conditions in CSIRO before importing virus-free semen into WA.

Ron Clark collects drone semen, in sterile conditions, under the watchful eye of queen breeder, Joe Horner.
Ron Clark collects drone semen, in sterile conditions, under the watchful eye of queen breeder, Joe Horner.

Queen bee genetic improvement program

Wheen Bee Foundation is a strategic funding partner for this national initiative together with NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit of University of New England (UNE) and Sydney University.

The project investment over 5 years from 2019 to 2024 will:

  • Establish a research apiary at Tocal Agricultural College – 250 hives
  • Employ a beekeeper technician
  • Establish a genetic improvement program
  • Distribute breeder queens 
  • Education and industry outreach