Small in stature but mighty in impact, it is estimated honey bees and the associated industry contribute $14.2 billion annually to the Australian economy, not just through honey production but through the crucial pollination services provided to horticultural and agricultural crops, as well as some crops used for livestock grazing.
Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC) Chair, Trevor Weatherhead, said one-third of the food that ends up on our plates relies on honey bee pollination.
“Approximately 65 per cent of Australia’s horticultural and agricultural crops rely on honey bees and other insects, wind, or bats for pollination,”.
“However, in that 65 per cent, there are 35 industries that solely rely on the pollination services of honey bees for the majority of their production.”
As a percentage of yield Mr Weatherhead explained that almonds, apples, avocadoes, blueberries, cucumbers, pumpkins, and rockmelons all depend 100 per cent on honey bee pollination services.
“Commercial honey bee keepers move their hives around the country to pollinate major crops throughout late winter, spring and early summer,” he said.
For example, in July and August this year, commercial beekeepers from across Australia transported billions of honey bees to orchards in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia to provide pollination services for the almond industry. With approximately 277,000 hives required for the six-week season, the annual pilgrimage is hailed as one of Australia’s largest livestock movements.
Mr Weatherhead said the importance of honey bees extended to the production of many other nutritious and popular foods eaten each day by Australian and international consumers.
“Cherries, macadamias and mangoes are 90 per cent dependent on honey bee pollination and, of course, the production of seeds for many vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, carrots and cauliflower among others must also have pollination,” he said
The number of honey bees required to produce one kilogram of produce varies depending on the produce type. For example:
- 140 bees are needed to produce one kilogram of macadamias
- 69 bees help produce one kilogram of almonds
- 18 bees are required to pollinate one kilogram of avocados
- 5 bees help grow one kilogram of pumpkin
- 2 bees are needed for one kilogram of watermelon.
While we celebrate all pollinators this week, Mr Weatherhead encouraged Australians to acknowledge the honey bee and our commercial beekeepers for their contribution to the nation’s agriculture industry.