TASMANIAN beekeeper Lindsay Bourke’s efforts to safeguard bee hives against the deadly varroa mite have been recognised at the national Farmer of the Year titles on Wednesday night, with the apiarist taking home the award for biosecurity.
Tasmanian farmers accounted for four of the nine award winners in Sydney, with Dunalley’s Matt Dunabin winning the diversification category, as well as the event’s top gong as Farmer of the Year.
Meander’s Brian and Michele Lawrence were named Australian Dairy Farmers of the Year, and Glengarry’s Carol Bracken was runner-up in the 2015 Rural Woman of the Year.
Mr Bourke said biosecurity was crucial to the future of pollinator-dependent crops in Australia, such as apples, pears and cherries.
‘‘Four years ago, we sent 250 queens to America be tested against the varroa over there and they only lasted a few months, so if varroa got to Australia we’d be in a real pickle,’’ he said.
Mr Bourke’s program aims to breed from bees that are the most efficient at detecting and removing diseases in the hive.
‘‘What we do is we take out a frame of their brew and we put a ring over it, like a cup basically, and tip liquid nitrogen in there and that freezes it.
‘‘Then we put it back into the hive for 24 hours, exactly to the minute, and we take it out and we count how many cells they’ve cleaned up – how many cells they’ve detected that have gone bad.’’