AS the full impact of the bushfire crisis on bee populations dawns, the horticulture industry is being forced to take a more serious look at alternative pollinators.
Early assessment has indicated that more than 10,000 honeybee hives have been destroyed across the Australian mainland.
About 800 hives and 115 nucleus hives of the Ligurian subspecies of honey bee on Kangaroo Island were also lost.
Hort Innovation research and development manager for pollination, Ashley Zamek, said the organisation was working with several research institutions across the country to assess the viability of alternative or complementary insect pollinators to ease the pressure on honey bees and their keepers.
- Native flies could replace bees as pollinators
- Glasshouse trials put native bees to test as pollinators
- Bees lost in bushfires, suffering in smoke
"This research is now more important than ever considering the loss of such a significant number of hives during this catastrophic bush fire season," Ms Zamek said.
"And in a national first research project, we have partnered with the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development in Western Australia to trial the use of flies for pollination.
Ms Zamek said promising preliminary findings had already been made in areas of alternative pollination where native stingless bees were successfully introduced into protected cropping environments.
She said researchers were also working to diversify landscapes to promote other supporting native insects such as wasps, beetles, birds and the like.
Hort Innovation has several pollination projects underway.
One of the research leads, Professor James Cook from Western Sydney University, said the projects are looking to understand what the natural pollinators are doing and how that can be strengthened to better support industry.
"Moving forward we'll see increasing recognition of the role of wild pollinators and pollinators other than honeybees," he said.
"What our studies are showing at the moment is that insects such as native bees, wasps, flies and more are already playing quite a big role in pollination, but now we're starting to get reliable data that demonstrates just what kind of contribution they are making."
"If you put together all the pollination work we're doing around the country, what we're looking to do is to be able to provide information for resilient pollination services that don't rely too much on any one situation or one species - leading to a better understanding of all the different options and how we can manage the landscape or the protected cropping environment so that we can harness these natural pollinators and get good pollination for crop production."