The West

WA bees give Canadians a buzz
Rob Manning. Picture: Simon Eyres

Business is buzzing for WA apiarists who have exported almost 40 million honey bees to Canada in the past month.

Exports are up by 50 per cent on last year and Canadians can't get enough of WA's biosecure bees, which are free of exotic diseases.

The big bee export is an annual event, as Canadian apiarists prepare for their warmer months when bees go to work in honey production and pollinating canola and blueberries.

Their demand ties in with the end of WA's marri honey season and this has been one of the best in decades for building up bee numbers.

Department of Agriculture and Food WA researcher Rob Manning said there was almost unlimited demand for WA's bees, with Canada taking all those available and wanting more.

"We have never really promoted it internationally," Dr Manning said. "The Canadians have wanted it."

This year the bees came from 10 apiarists and 28 locations in the South West. Despite the huge number exported, the deal is not as sweet as it might seem, with the 40 million bees worth about $265,000 at $60/kg.

The WA bees are chilled before being carefully secured for the long flight to Vancouver via Hong Kong.

Beekeeping is big business in Canada, which exports honey to key markets such as Germany and has a major seed production industry.

Canadian honey bees are often kept indoors through their icy winters but some do not survive and the addition of fit, healthy WA bees helps to get things buzzing in the spring.

Dr Manning developed the package bee export process in the late 1990s, working out the numbers of bees that could be safely removed from hives.

Honey bees on the east coast do not comply with Canadian import conditions after the discovery and spread of Asian honey bees in northern Queensland.

DAFWA director of plant biosecurity John van Schagen said the export sales were a great endorsement for the State's bee biosecurity program.

"The health of our bee industry and its freedom from important exotic diseases, including European foulbrood, small hive beetle and varroa mite, is a major factor in the Canadians choosing WA to supply bees," he said.

Department of Agriculture and Food bee researcher Rob Manning checks bee hives for disease at a South Perth apiary. Picture: Simon Eyres
The West Australian

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