You may have heard of hobby and commercial beekeepers who maintain hives for honey and beeswax, but have you heard of migratory beekeepers who manage hives specifically to pollinate crops? They play a critical role in our nation’s food security. Without migratory beekeepers, agriculture around the world would suffer.
Australia’s largest mass migration of livestock
It’s hard to believe, but in 2020, Australia’s largest mass migration of livestock that crossed Australian borders wasn’t cows, sheep or chickens. Over 9 billion bees housed in over 227,000 beehives were trucked into Victoria with the one goal, to pollinate Victoria’s billion-dollar agricultural crops.
In fact, each night as you sleep, thousands of bees are transported around Australia to maintain the pollination needs of agricultural producers, some travelling distances as far as northern Queensland to Victoria. They move their hives from farm to farm, with pollination taking up to six weeks before they pack up and move on.
Bees as keystone pollinators provide an essential service for maintaining and preserving the ecological balance in our world. They are necessary for our survival, cross-pollinating around 75 per cent of the world’s flowering plants, including three-quarters of food-producing plants. But unfortunately, farmers can’t depend on native or wild bees alone to pollinate their large crops. They need the service of migratory beekeepers and their livestock.
Fruits and vegetables, nuts, herbs, spices, oil crops, and coffee heavily rely on bees to cross pollinate to produce a good yield. Around 90 per cent of avocado crops and 80 per cent of almond crops are pollinated by bees, but if it weren’t for migratory beekeepers, supply would dramatically decrease, which would cause prices to skyrocket.
Migratory beekeepers need your help
Sadly, the recent drought, bushfires and floods, the increase in pesticides and insecticides and the availability of crown land have severely impacted bee populations. While migratory beekeepers take care of the health and wellbeing of their livestock as much as they possibly can, there are many ways Australians can help bees thrive and survive in urban environments.
How to support bees?
Grow more bee friendly plants in your garden
The use of harmful pesticides and insecticides on farms has long been blamed for killing bees, but scientists have recently discovered another modern-day farming technique that is contributing to the decline in bee populations. Due to the high demands of fresh produce, vast meadows that usually provide native bees and honeybees with a variety of wildflowers to feed on have been cleared for large scale monoculture crops. Monoculture farming is when one variety of crop is planted in rows across large paddocks leading to the mass-flowering of a single plant species. This mass flowering not only reduces diversity of food for bees, but it also attracts various pollinators which increases the risks of transmitting harmful parasites and diseases to one another.
While we need farms to provide food for the population, you can support bees by improving their habitats and providing a variety of food for them to feed on in your garden. Experts suggest planting a pollinator-friendly garden that blooms all year round. Bees are attracted to flowering varieties such as native trees, shrubs and flowers, flowering herbs, and cottage garden favourites such as zinnias, sunflowers and daisies. For more bee friendly plant suggestions, read the Australian Government’s planting guide for European honeybees and Australian native pollinators here.
Reduce the use of pesticides and insecticides
One of the most significant impacts on the health of bees is the extensive use of pesticides and insecticides not only in large scale farming but also in suburban gardens. Avoid using toxic repellents on the plants in your garden and try organic solutions. There are many natural alternatives to repel pests using basic ingredients commonly found in your pantry.
Reduce your carbon footprint
Climate change has a negative effect on bees. Rising temperatures cause flowers to bloom earlier when the bees aren’t ready to feed, shrinks bee territories preventing them from migrating and makes them more susceptible to diseases. Support bee populations by reducing your carbon footprint as much as possible. Drive less, reduce your energy consumption at home, and offset your carbon emission when you can.