The entry of exotic bee diseases into Australia would have far wider implications than destroying the honey industry, according to a local apiarist.
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A number of agricultural industries, especially legumes, would be left high and dry without bees, Warren Jones said yesterday.
He was commenting after the peak bee industry body slammed what it believed was a lenient punishment given to a Mendooran beekeeper who risked wiping out Australia’s $2 billion honey industry with the insect equivalent of foot-and-mouth disease.
Terry Brown was sentenced to 200 hours community service and fined $1000 after attempting to smuggle eight Italian queen bees concealed in pens into the country.
“If someone brought foot-and-mouth disease (to Australia) would they get a $1000 fine and 200 hours community service?” questioned Mr Jones, who is involved in honey production and pollination.
The local bee farmer said many people did not realise the important roles bees played in industries other than honey production.
Many crops, especially legumes such as lucernes and clover, could not reproduce unless there were bees to pollinate the plants, he said.
“There is absolutely no seed unless we have bees.”
The food chain would also be affected, he remarked.
Mr Jones said he was “a little perturbed” by the leniency of the sentence handed down to Mr Brown, whose actions threatened Australia’s status of being “relatively free” of exotic bee diseases.
“It was done by someone who should have known better, and for monetary gain,” he stated.
Mr Jones also voiced his opposition to a preliminary determination to include feral European as a pest species - a move which would force authorities to begin a massive eradication program.
An independent scientific committee, which decides additions to the Threatened Species Conservation Act, are expected to make a final decision on whether or not to declare feral bees as pests next month.
Mr Jones said the bees were important because they were responsible for about 90 per cent of pollination.
“The feral bee works quite well for the community,” he said.
The only situation where they became a pest was when they were in an environment such as a school, he said.
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