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Newsletter Edition - December 2022

  • B-Trace

    The specially designed app will assist in maintaining hive record information that satisfies the requirements of the National Biosecurity Code of Practice. The program is intended for small commercial and recreational beekeepers who sell honeybee products direct to:

    • Famers Markets
    • Direct to consumers
    • Food stalls
    • Boutique shops, such as Bakeries, Fruit and Vegetable, Delicatessens, Restaurants and similar

    The low annual fee includes the use of the hive management app and an annual desk audit.

    For further information go to www.btrace.com.au

  • B-QUAL

    How does B-QUAL certification benefit my business?

    • Product integrity
    • Quality Assurance
    • HACCP based certification
    • Regulatory compliance
    • Industry best practice
    • Biosecurity
    • Access to domestic and export markets

    B-QUAL Certification also enables an enterprise to market its product under the B-QUAL logo to show that it meets the B-QUAL Industry Standards.

    Complete your training at home at your own pace.

    For more information and to obtain a Certification Information Pack, contact the B-QUAL Certification team.

    B-QUAL Pty Ltd
    Phone 0404 381 942
    Email: admin@bqual.com.au

  • CEO Update

    What a year! 2022 has been a whirl wind year for AHBIC, starting with the resignation of our CEO in December 2021, appointment of an acting CEO at the start of 2022 and straight into the planning and organising of the 2022 Bee Congress.  Following shortly after the congress the detection of Varroa at Newcastle and the launch of the largest plant pest response the country has ever seen.  All this happening whilst trying to continue to achieve good outcomes for the industry on many fronts.

    Varroa Coordinator position

    We very excited to announce that Bianca Giggins has accepted the position after a rigorous selection and interview process.  The list of candidates for the role was strong and the selection panel had a difficult time separating the top candidates.  Thankyou to all the exceptionally talented candidates for applying.

    Bianca has previously worked as the training coordinator for Tocal Ag College coordinating and delivering the Cert 3 in beekeeping and more recently has been a team leader in the Varroa response.  We are very lucky to have Bianca starting in the new year.  In our next newsletter we will ask Bianca to provide a more detailed introduction.

    We acknowledge and are very thankful to the federal government for providing the support to employ the Varroa Coordinator.

    Varroa Update

    I have not spent as much time physically in the Control Centre as previous months but I have zoomed in for all the morning briefings and afternoon debriefs daily in an ILO capacity.  I have attended many CCEPP and NMG meetings as well as re-categorisation meetings.  It has been all-consuming with the majority of my time spent on the Varroa response.

    The response is now recognised as the largest plant pest response in Australia’s biosecurity history with over 2,000 government personnel 300 beekeeper volunteers having rotated through the response.    Overall the response is in a good position with euthanasia of hives largely completed and teams tasked back onto surveillance.  As these teams are working back through the purple zones with mats and strips they have found a few new detections.  This is not completely unexpected and highlights the importance of the purple/surveillance zone.   Pleasingly all the new detections are linked to existing IP’s.

    Baiting is well underway across all zones and the second round of baiting has commenced in Jerrys Plain.  There has been mixed results as some area have got honey flows occurring but this starting to change with greater bee visitations to baiting stations currently.

    Imported honey

    AHBIC has received results from another batch of Indian honey tested for adulteration.  This batch, from Queensland shelves, has come back as not adulterated.  However AHBIC is strongly pursuing the commonwealth to improve the border testing protocols and frequency to prevent adulterated honey entering Australia.  In addition AHBIC has lobbied the ACCC to highlight the mis-labelling of some imported product as ‘honey’ when testing demonstrates it is not honey.

    To counteract the cheap imported honey AHBIC has also been actively working to increase Australian honey export opportunities through working with Austrade and DAFF in to gain better access to countries like Vietnam and Indonesia.  We have also been communicating with the Special Envoy to Southeast Asia to ensure honey is at the forefront of mind when negotiating new trade deals.  Increasing exports will reduce the stockpiles of Australian honey, in turn hopefully increasing farm gate pricing.

    Migrant workers

    AHBIC is working with VETASSESS to apply to have the requirements for skilled migrant beekeepers reduced and realigned to industry expectations.  Currently any migrant worker wanting to work as a beekeeper in Australia under the skilled worker visa must hold a higher degree (bachelor or higher) certificate in beekeeping.  Generally beekeepers need to apply to the government for an exemption which takes significant time and resources.  We are applying to lower the requirements to a Cert 3 in beekeeping more in-line with industry expectations of a ‘skilled’ beekeeper.

    International Standards Organisation

    We have applied to participate in the ISO working group for honey and honey bee products.  This working group is an established group under the international standards organisation and Australia is the only major honey producing country not at the table.  This working group is chaired by China and it is important for Australia to have representation.  More information can be found at the ISO website.  If our application is successful then we will need setup a technical group to inform the representative.

    AHBIC review

    Whilst Varroa has consumed nearly all of our time we have managed to progress the review sub-committee.  The draft terms of reference has now been approved and a skills matrix developed.  We will send out a request for committee members early in the new year to start the process.  This group will assist in informing the upcoming strategic plan due to be renewed in 2023.

    Merry Christmas

    We hope everyone is able to enjoy a break over Christmas no matter how small, and I hope everyone finds more honey in the new year than you have through spring!!  The AHBIC office will be closed between Christmas and the 9th January.

  • The importance of beekeeper surveillance in early detection

    As part of the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program (NBPSP), biosecurity officers routinely conduct surveillance activities at high-risk ports around Australia. The NBPSP was a crucial part of the recent detection of varroa mite in New South Wales, with the pest first detected at the Port of Newcastle sentinel hives.

    Similarly, the National Bee Biosecurity Program (NBBP) inspects hives at major pollination events to check for established and exotic bee pests and diseases. With over 29,000 registered beekeepers, approximately 668,000 hives and at least 16 government surveillance staff across the two programs, effective biosecurity is a shared responsibility.

    The Federal Government is responsible for international pre-border and at the border biosecurity activities, and State governments look after interstate . This is supported beekeepers who conduct post-border surveillance through the routine checking of hives for exotic pests and diseases. The collaborative approach increases the chances of early detection and minimises the risk of bee pests and disease spreading further.

    Plant Health Australia interviewed Dave Schlipalius, Queensland (QLD) Bee Biosecurity Office (BBO) on practical bee surveillance methods.

    It is difficult to see external pests by looking at bees/frames just with the naked eye, so targeted surveillance methods are required for the detection of pests such as varroa mite, tropilaelaps mites and braula fly.

    The Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice requires all beekeepers to check their hives (a minimum of one hive per apiary) at least twice per year for external pests. Surveillance activities such as sugar shaking, alcohol washing or drone uncapping are recommended.

    What can beekeepers do?

    “The most useful test is the one that is actually done” says QLD BBO Dave. The tests are much more likely to detect varroa mites within an area if they are performed regularly and on multiple hives across different apiaries in a region. In Queensland, beekeepers are asked to test their hives whenever they do a general hive check, preferably each group of hives should be tested up to four times a year.

    Reporting your results can support proof of freedom claims in your state or territory. In Queensland beekeepers can report their results through the Bee123 app. Contact your local BBO to find out what apps or online forms are available within your state or territory.

    Which method do you prefer and why?

    A combination of alcohol washing and drone/worker brood uncapping is preferred as they are complimentary tests.

    Both alcohol wash and sugar shake tests are used to detect mites on adult bees. Both are relatively easy to do by beekeepers at many different levels of skill and experience and can be performed with simple homemade equipment.  However, alcohol washing is preferred over sugar shaking for several reasons:

    • alcohol washing is more likely to detect varroa mites when very low mite numbers are present in the hive
    • it works over a greater range of environmental conditions, i.e., temperature and humidity
    • there are less constraints on using these two destructive sampling methods over autumn, winter, and early spring in sub-tropical and tropical environments compared to temperate climates, where colony reproduction rates can be quite low in cooler climates of the southern states.


    Testing is more sensitive when combined with drone/worker brood uncapping tests for mites in capped brood.  Most of the mites in a low-level hive infestation will be found in capped brood and will not be easily detected by either alcohol wash or sugar shake tests. Varroa mites also prefer to develop in drone brood. Brood uncapping only requires a comb scratcher and can be routinely performed during a hive inspection.

    Drone or worker brood uncapping and alcohol wash tests on the same hive increases the chance of finding varroa mites, as the tests target different life stages of bees and varroa mites.

    What kind of feedback have you received from beekeepers about these surveillance methods?

    Feedback indicates that beekeepers find alcohol washing relatively easy to do with some beekeepers using it routinely, even before the recent varroa mite detection in New South Wales. Some beekeepers are reluctant to kill bees or do not currently have access to the equipment required, however many are willing to learn how to perform it.

    To find out how to perform an alcohol wash or drone uncapping contact the BBO in your state or territory.

    For further resources on bee biosecurity see below:


    Good bee biosecurity practices include preventative measures designed to reduce the introduction and spread of exotic bee pests and diseases. All beekeepers have a key role to play in protecting the Australian honeybee industry.

    If you suspect the presence of exotic pests such as varroa mites, tropilaelaps mites, or braula flies or anything else unusual, report it immediately to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline 1800 084 881.

    Biosecurity Queensland delivers the Queensland components of both the NBBP and NBPSP, and provides significant co-investment and expertise. Both programs are coordinated by Plant Health Australia and funded by state and territory governments. and honey bee industry biosecurity levies. Hort Innovation provides significant investment into the NBPSP using research and development levies of horticultural industries. Other investment partners include Grains Producers Australia, and the Australian Government.

  • Chair report

    Varroa has still been the main focus in time and effort for AHBIC since the last newsletter.  When not focused on varroa it has been meetings with many government departments.  I sometimes wonder where the industry would be if AHBIC closed its doors due to lack of funding by industry.  The following are some of the things that AHBIC have achieved or are working on that industry individuals would not have been able to achieve:

    • Getting the bee industry (Honey) in the AUSTRADE tent – a powerful international marketing tool.
    • Liaising/assisting RAA with beekeeper ORC reimbursements and speeding up payments.
    • Negotiating with PHA to get the best outcome for industry levy monies for the Biosecurity program including BBO’s and also the bee pest surveillance program.
    • Providing feedback so that Australian honey can be exported to Vietnam.
    • Provide direct input to BQual standards and management.
    • Pushing for harmonisation for standards to allow hive movement across state borders (this is getting closer but without AHBIC pushing may take years).
    • Lobbying DAFF to have the C3 sugar test included on honey testing protocols for adulterated honeys.  Currently only the C4 sugar test is used.
    • Lobbying DAFF to increase the level of imported honey testing beyond the current 5% of consignments.
    • Applying for grants for industry – we were successful with the Varroa Coordinator submission.

    Without donations from Honey Packers, amateur beekeepers and a few dedicated beekeepers, AHBIC could not exist in its current form.  There are a lot of beekeepers that reap the benefits of the hard work that AHBIC does (often over many years to get an outcome for industry) – please consider becoming a friend of AHBIC.

    Sub committee meetings will be ramped up in the new year.  There will be an executive meeting in February to be followed by an AHBIC members meeting.  AHBIC strategic plan is up for review.  NOT HAPPY WITH AHBIC? – provide input to the strategic review via one of the member bodies or call me on 0428 649 321.  If you are NOT a financial member of one of AHBIC’s member bodies or a friend of AHBIC, you are letting yourself, industry and AHBIC down.

    Except for the west it has been a tough season to date – hopefully with sunshine and dry weather bees can start bringing in serious amounts of honey.

    From all of us at AHBIC have a safe and happy Christmas and may the New Year be a prosperous one for all.

  • Member bodies conference dates


    National Council of Crop Pollination Associations 16 May, – Penrith, NSW
    New South Wales Apiarists Association 18th-19th May – Penrith, NSW
    Tasmanian Beekeepers Association 26th-27th May – Hobart, TAS
    Queensland Beekeepers Association 15th-16th June – Toowoomba, QLD
    South Australian Apiarists Association 22nd-23rd June
    Victorian Apiarists Association 6th-7th July – Bendigo, VIC
    Australian Honey Bee Industry Council – AGM 8th July – Bendigo, VIC
    Honey Packers and Marketers Association TBA
    Australian Queen Bee Breeders Association TBA
    Bee Industry Council of WA Cancelled


  • Friends of AHBIC

    If you aren’t already a Friend of AHBIC, we welcome you to join our group of organisations and individuals who are supporting Australia’s national beekeeping industry that supports you.