Tasmania – being relatively free from most serious bee diseases – has opened up a niche export trade in live bees. During the last three months 2,800 packets of bees have been exported by air freight from Tasmania to Canada. The bees help to replenish hives destroyed by the varroa mite and colony collapse disorder.
Tasmanian bees are free from the varroa destructor mite and another pest, the small hive beetle, which is spreading across mainland Australia.
President of the Tasmanian Beekeepers Association, Lindsay Bourke, says the small hive beetle has halted interstate live bee exports;Tasmanian beekeepers are trying to fill the breach.
After transhipping through Melbourne and Hong Kong, the small colonies of healthy bees are allowed to grow and provide crop pollination services in Canada.
The bees are exported in 1.4 kg packs, with a queen in a cage, and are shipped through Launceston airport.