We are far more reliant on pollinators than most people realise - many of our food crops rely on pollination by insects or other organisms and even producing seed to grow new crops usually requires insect pollinators. Much of the hard work of pollinating flowers is done for us for free by European
honeybees (Apis mellifera) but Australia also has a wide range of native stingless bees that pollinate flowers.
Across the world , honeybees are being affected by an invasive mite called Varroa that can kill whole colonies. If this mite becomes established in Australia, honeybees may suffer serious declines and that could cause significant problems for farmers, consumers and many other industries.
This project aims to explore opportunities to protect native bees and honeybees by better understanding which ones contribute to different crops' pollination, and to develop ways to better provide pollinating insects with the right food sources to thrive under different crops and in different seasons.
- understanding which insects actually do the work of pollinating different types of flowers and crops. For example, research on avocadoes showed that flies do most of the pollination, not honeybees (source (opens in a new window)).
- understanding the different non-crop food sources available to honeybees, stingless bees, flies, hoverflies and many other pollinators in Australian horticultural contexts
- assessing which diseases affect different pollinators and whether there is any chance that diseases can pass from one pollinator type to another - for example from stingless bees to honeybees
The $7 million five-year program will be delivered by some of the country's top researchers from Western Sydney University, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta Asia-Pacific and Greening Australia, and executed with support from Hort Innovation through its strategic co-investment Pollination Fund.
The research will focus on:
- Characterising and securing alternative pollinators: Reducing the dependence on honey bees by identifying the roles of different insect pollinators in the pollination of key horticultural crops in field situations.
- Increasing pollen and nectar on farms: Developing an understanding of the contribution of floral resource species to bee colony and population health, and devise farm-level floral enhancement schemes.
- The effects of climate change on pollinators: Testing how climate manipulations influence the timing, quality and quantity of nectar and pollen available to bees.
- Bee virus research: Determining what viruses are harboured by native bees and to what extent these are shared by honeybees.
- Grower involvement and adoption: Informing and educating growers and land managers about bee population health – floral resources, diseases, soil and pest management.
For more information contact Prof James Cook on firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Taking an international approach to pollination research" is funded by the Hort Frontiers Pollination Fund, part of the Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative developed by Hort Innovation, with co-investment from Western Sydney University, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta Asia-Pacific and Greening Australia, and contributions from the Australian Government.