All organisms release DNA into the environment. Sampling and analysing this environmental DNA (eDNA) promises an elegant solution to detect…
Pollination services by European honeybees contribute an estimated $14.2 billion to the Australian economy each year. As beekeepers in New South Wales battle an outbreak of varroa mite, attention is turning towards the role that Australia’s native bees, as well as other pollinators such as flies and wasps, play in the productivity of crops and the health of ecosystems in agroecological landscapes.
AgriFutures Australia predicts that the native bee industry is on the cusp of significant growth, owing to the potential role that Australia’s stingless, social and semi-social bees, both managed and wild, can play in crop pollination.
Studies show that a greater number and variety of insects visit the flowers of crops planted near remnant native vegetation, resulting in higher yields than produced by crops grown further away. AgriFutures also predicts that the value of honey produced by native bees will be worth $3–5 million by 2030.
Biologic has formed a Pollinator Group within our Terrestrial Invertebrate Team to bring together our skills in invertebrate taxonomy and environmental field survey. Dr Juliana Pille Arnold and Dr Emily Eakin-Busher have extensive knowledge of plant–pollinator networks and plant pollination in Western Australia, developed through their research into the diversity of native bees and their interactions with native flora.
The Australian Native Bee Strategic RD&E Plan (2022–2027) identifies a significant opportunity to conduct baseline surveys to understand the economic value of native bees to crop production, as well improving our understanding of the conservation needs of these species.
Around 800 native bee species are known in Western Australia, where they play a vital role in pollinating native plants, including First Nations food plants such as Kakadu plum, quandong and bush tomato. Encouraging native pollinators to visit restoration plantings to ensure the next generation of seeds is essential to their long-term success.
While the hive-building stingless bees that can be used as managed pollinators are restricted to the tropical north, the sonification to obtain pollen (‘buzz’ pollination) used by the solitary and semi-solitary bees found in the south-west also benefits tomatoes, eggplants, chillies, blueberries and cranberries.
Yet we know relatively little about our native bees – where they nest, which plants they forage, and to what extent their habitat has been disturbed or destroyed. Many bee species are yet to be discovered and described. Each year, Australian Pollinator Week (australianpollinatorweek.org.au) encourages all of us to learn more about and support our native pollinators within our communities and surrounds.
Currently, there are six native bee species listed as threatened or endangered in Western Australia, mainly from the Swan Coastal Plain (SCP) where most surveys have been undertaken. A recent Biologic survey in a patch of jarrah forest on the SCP revealed a high diversity of bee species.
We encourage our clients to include pollinator surveys of the remnant vegetation under their management, to discover which bee species may be dependent on them, to advance our understanding of the special role of pollinators, and to better protect those that require conservation.