HONEYBEES IN NATIONAL PARKS AND NATURE RESERVES

NATIONAL PARKS ASSOCIATION of NSW Inc.

Policy No: 13, 6 February 1993

 

INTRODUCTION

It has been shown that honeybees are interfering with the natural functioning of flora and fauna in National Parks and Nature Reserves which are, under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974), established primarily for the protection of unique or outstanding scenery or natural phenomena and for the care, propagation, preservation and conservation of wildlife, natural environments and natural phenomena. Nature Reserves in particular must be preserved as closely to the natural state as possible, to maintain their vital function as reference areas.

DEFINITION

For the purpose of this policy, the "honeybee" means Apis mellifera, or any other non-native honey-producing insect.

POLICY

1. A programme aimed at eliminating feral honeybee nests from national parks and nature reserves should begin as soon as possible.

2. Apiaries or hives presently located within NPs and NRs should be removed within 2 years, and no new apiaries should be permitted.

3. Legislation should be introduced to prevent new apiaries being permitted within 6 km of the boundary of a NP or NR, and existing apiaries within this area should not be replaced when the present apiarist ceases to operate.

4. Research into the ecological impact of honeybees should be intensified, and should include ways of eliminating honeybees from NPs and NRs, and methods of eliminating feral honeybees outside NPs and NRs.

5. Any access roads used by apiarists in NPs and NRs, not being roads legally provided for the public or for management purposes, should after the removal of apiaries be allowed to revegetate naturally, as should any cleared areas where apiaries were located.

Supporting statement

The honeybee, Apis mellifera, was introduced into Australia in 1826 and is now widespread over much of the Continent. Most honeybees are managed by apiarists but significant populations have escaped into the wild. Although the honeybee is a traditional forager of gardens, crops and pastures, it has also become adept at utilising natural bushland for its nectar and pollen supplies.

Unfortunately, the honeybee's foraging activities in natural bushland may have a detrimental effect on that bushland. Pollination may be ineffective in some plant species and the resultant poor seed set may lead, in time, to the bushland being dominated by honeybee-compatible species. Hybridisation may also occur between some plant species. The honeybee may also displace other invertebrates and certain vertebrates from the bushland, by out-competing them for nectar and pollen, by using their nesting hollows and by using and polluting limited water supplies. The greater size and physical strength of the honeybee, together with its food storage behaviour, give it an advantage over native bees.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service of NSW (NPWS) has, in the past, allowed commercial apiary to occur in certain National Parks, some of which contain significant areas of natural bushland. It can be expected, therefore, that some of the plants and animals in these areas have already been detrimentally affected by the honeybee. Export of nutrients has a detrimental biological effect on native flora and fauna. Provision of access has a physically damaging effect on the park by clearing of sites and maintaining access roads.

NPA declares that exploitation and occupation by commercial apiary is unacceptable, just as grazing is also unacceptable.

Commercial apiary exploits the natural resources of National Parks and Nature Reserves, which were defined by the IUCN in 1969, inter alia, as *... where the highest competent authority of the country has taken steps to prevent or eliminate as soon as possible exploitation or occupation in the whole area...*.

The NPA also recommends that the NPWS eliminate feral honeybees from National Parks and Nature Reserves and land within 6 km outside the boundary of any Park or Reserve. This elimination may need to be achieved by the fumigation of individual hives. The effectiveness of a 2 km limit outside (as specified by Vic, NPA in their policy "European Bees in National Parks") in protecting Parks and Reserves from the deleterious effects of honeybees is doubtful as honeybees are known to have a range well in excess of 5 km.

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