The Tasmanian and Federal government's decision to pull the plug on eradicating the Asian honey bee incursion in Cairns will have dire consequences for Tasmanian apiarists, farmers and much of our wildlife if not reinstated, says Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Christine Milne.
With beekeepers from around Australia converging on Canberra, the Greens today once again called on the Gillard government to step up and fund efforts to eradicate the invasive Asian honey bee and to protect our food security and Tasmania's unique honey industry while it still has the chance.
"Quite rightly, the Tasmanian Beekeeping Association is up in arms about the decision to halt the federal and state funded $5 million eradication program.
"The bee keepers also want to know whether the Tasmanian government representative on the management group voted to end the eradication effort when this invasive bee will eventually spread to Tasmania.
"This is the only chance we will ever have at halting the spread of this destructive species first found in Australia four years ago. It therefore beggars belief that our government will hang up the gloves at this relatively early stage when the eradication of the Asian honey bee is still within our grasp.
"The current incursion is in Cairns, but the CSIRO has said that it will spread throughout the country as it survives in temperate climates. The CSIRO was not consulted about this decision by the government representatives in spite of its expertise.
"Asian honey bees are notorious for robbing honey from managed bee hives, and competing with native and European species for pollen. To give an example, a five year infestation on the Solomon Islands has seen the number of commercial hives reduce from 2000 to just five.
"Native bees, along with the managed European species are incredibly important for pollination of farmed crops, whereas the Asian honey bee is deemed unsuitable for this purpose.
"Due to the species' ability to rapidly multiply, the Asian honey bee can also take over nesting sites for native bees, birds and mammals, significantly impacting Tasmania's biodiversity.
"And perhaps most alarming of all, the Asian honey bee is the natural host for varroa mites, which in many countries worldwide are having a severe impact on beekeeping and plant industries.
"Even the Government's agriculture department says varroa mites alone could cost our plant industries up to $50 million per year. Is it really worth the risk of making a one off $5 million saving?
"I have met in Canberra members of the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council who have come to urge the government to change its mind. The Minister for Agriculture, Joe Ludwig must realise that Tasmania, and the nation's food security is dependent on it."