Under the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program, Bega Cheese and Agriculture Victoria are partnering to investigate biosecurity threats to Australian bees.
This will be done through Bega’s initiative called the Purple Hive Project, under the brands honey label, that uses artificially intelligent beehives to detect threats such as pests and diseases within Victoria’s ports.
“The deployment of B honey’s Purple Hive Project at the Port of Melbourne is a significant step for not only the beekeeping industry, but agriculture more broadly,” said Adam McNamara, Bega Foods executive general manager.
The Purple Hive is solar powered, developed in similar trial environments within New Zealand. It detects pests, such as the Varroa mite, through real time artificial intelligence and 360-degree cameras.
According to the Purple Hive Project, new technologies that can monitor bee populations in real time not only have the potential to reduce pest threats but also labour costs that come with traditional methods of hive monitoring.
It also recognises diseases through identifying bee health and behaviour then sending signals to remote computers of mobile devices.
In particular, the Purple Hive Project focuses on detection of the Varroa mite, which has inhabited every continent except Australia. It’s estimated 20,000 cropping and horticulture businesses would be affected if Varroa mites were to spread to Australia.
“Bega and B honey acknowledge that early detection is critical to protecting Australian honey bee populations from the arrival of Varroa destructor,” said McNamara. “The Purple Hive’s 360-degree camera technology and artificial intelligence has been designed to detect a healthy bee from a bee carrying Varroa destructor while the bees are entering and exiting the Purple Hive at the Port of Melbourne.”
The hives will be installed beside sentinel hives and managed by Agriculture Victoria. The National Bee Pest Surveillance Program already has hives across Geelong, Hastings and Portland, which will be monitored every six weeks.
These locations are identified as high-risk areas of Victoria where bee pests commonly enter Australia.
Currently Victoria’s apiary industry is worth $17.5 million with over 12, 800 beekeepers and 135,000 registered hives across Australia.