A net filled with pheromone-soaked ‘dummy queens’ attached to a helium-filled weather balloon is the latest tool being used by pollination researchers in their efforts to better understand the number of honey bee colonies in an area. Recently employed on the NSW north coast, and being conducted around Australia, the research aims to give growers an insight into where their bees are coming from – feral colonies or through managed hives – and how effective those sources are.
The work is being conducted as part of the four-year Hort Frontiers Pollination Fund project Assessing honey bee colony densities at landscape scales, supported by AgriFutures Australia, though funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program, as well as Hort Innovation. The project is being led by the University of Sydney with further support from Almond Board of Australia, Lucerne Australia, Costa Berries, and Raspberries and Blackberries Australia.
The bee balloon research is part of a broader pollination project that involves the investigation
of the pollinator contributions to nine crops including almond, apple, pear, berries, mango, melon, lucerne seed and canola. Researchers are also looking to re-establish native vegetation to support pollinator food and nesting resources to optimise crop yield and strengthen pollination security.