Lockwood buzzing over funding boost to revitalise bee stocks

Primary Industries Department plant biosecurity, prevention and preparedness manager Chris Anderson and minister Niall Blair in their bee kit.
Primary Industries Department plant biosecurity, prevention and preparedness manager Chris Anderson and minister Niall Blair in their bee kit.

A honey producer based near Orange is excited that a cash injection of $1.3 million and the hard work of Department of  Primary Industries (DPI) staffers will help develop stronger bees in NSW.

In an Australian first, Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair announced the new program at the Orange Agricultural Institute on Friday.

The minister, who maintains three hives at his home in the Southern Highlands and studied apiculture, said the genetic strengths of the NSW bee population would be studied for beneficial attributes, such as disease resistance and predisposition to hygiene.

NSW is responsible for almost 40 per cent of Australia’s honey production and Vittoria-based Goldfields Honey chief beekeeper John Lockwood welcomed the government’s move.

“My understanding of it is they will be using DNA tests and stock from all over Australia and may even introduce genetics from around the world.

Mr Lockwood said Australian bee genetics needed a shake up, adding it had been a long time since any international genetics had been introduced.

He said queen bee longevity was lagging and there were fears among apiarists that Australian bees were becoming too inbred.

“We buy breeders at the moment and graft off that stock,” he said.

Mr Lockwood said overseas some bees had been identified as having some resistance to the varroa mite and it would be good to introduce such genetics into Australia’s bees.

He said he fully backed the new project and would be looking to invest in it.

DPI intensive livestock industries manager Alex Russell said DPI had anecdotal suggestions that queens were not performing as well as they once did.

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