A new $2 coin features the introduced honeybee. Is this really the species we should celebrate?

The Royal Australian Mint has released a $ 2 collectors ’ coin to celebrate 200 years since the presentation of the European honeybee .
At the time of write, one of the 60,000 uncirculated coins was selling for angstrom high as A $ 36 – but that ’ s not the only bite in the tail of this commemorative release .
The coin celebrates an invasive estrange species, and continues a long custom in Australia of romanticising introduced fauna .
interim, we ’ ve missed an significant opportunity to showcase Australia ’ s native pollinators, some of which are threatened with extinction.

Honeybees: two sides of the coin

The coin was released to mark the bicentennial of Australia ’ s honey bee diligence. Honeybees were introduced to Australia by early european settlers and there are now about 530,000 managed honeybee colonies .
The commercial honeybee industry provides pollination services to a range of crops, a good as beloved and beeswax products .
But the industry comes with costs equally well as benefits. The introduce honeybee can escape managed hives to establish feral populations, which affect native species .
In New South Wales, feral honeybees are listed as a “ key threatening process ” .
Honeybees can take over big tree hollows to build raw colonies, potentially displacing native species. Tree hollows can take many decades to form and bee colonies occupy hollows for a long time – so this is a long-run trouble for native bees .
many other native species besides rely on corner hollows for shelter and breed, and are likely to be affected by competition from honeybees. They include at least 20 % of birds including threaten species such as the brilliant parrot and glistening black cockatoo, deoxyadenosine monophosphate well as a rate of native mammals and marsupials .
Honeybees, both feral and managed, besides compete with native species for nectar and pollen in flowers. Research has shown honeybees often remove 80 % or more of floral resources produced .

Read more:
Phantom of the forest: after 100 years in hiding, I rediscovered the rare cloaked bee in Australia


Dave Hunt/AAP

Unrealised pollinator potential

As others have noted, farmers around the world have become “ perilously reliant ” on managed honeybee hives to pollinate their crops. Overseas, honey bees colonies are declining due to threats such as parasites, loss of habitat, climate change and pesticides .
While Australia has been sheltered from some of these threats, relying on a single managed pollinator is inactive considered hazardous .
For example, Australia is the only populate celibate barren of the varroa mite, a parasite implicated in the collapse of overseas bee colonies .
Should the touch become established in Australia, it could lead to agriculture diligence losses of $ 70 million a year. fortunately, the varroa mite has little impact on native species .

Read more:
Explainer: Varroa mite, the tiny killer threatening Australia’s bees

Australia is home to a range of native pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and bats, which all contribute to the $ 14 billion pollination industry .
Some – such as Australia ’ s 11 species of stingless bees – can produce honey – though not to the extent honeybees can. They can besides pollinate blueberries, macadamias and mangoes .
In fact, some native bee species can nest on the ground in chaff and other parts of crops. In contrast, honeybee hives are frequently trucked from crop to crop .
And best of all, pollination by non-commercial native species is release .
A late report found the common native resin bee is a suitable alfalfa pollinator, and that small, ground-nesting nomiine bees were more effective at pollination than honeybees. pollination by stingless bees besides may result in heavier blueberries .
While these studies are promising, more inquiry is needed to assess the potential of native pollinators .

Read more:
‘Jewel of nature’: scientists fight to save a glittering green bee after the summer fires

bee lands on purple flower


Feral horses: a true national icon?

This is not the first gear fourth dimension an australian coin has commemorated an invasive species. This year, the Perth Mint released a collectible $ 100 mint to celebrate australian brumbies – or feral horses – which it described as “ national icons seen by many as symbolic of our national character ” .
Brumbies have long been an object of affection in australian culture, including romanticize depictions in movies and poems such as Banjo Patterson ’ s The valet From Snowy River .
In holocene years this has translated into a campaign to protect feral sawhorse populations, which can wreak havoc in delicate ecosystems such as NSW ’ s Kosciuszko National Park .
The damage includes trampling endangered ecological communities, causing soils to erode or compact and sending silt up into streams. feral horses drive aside native species such as kangaroos and can wipe out populations of threaten native species .
Like feral honeybees, feral horses are listed as a cardinal threatening process in NSW. They ’ re besides considered a potentially endanger process in Victoria .

Read more:
Feral horses will rule one third of the fragile Kosciuszko National Park under a proposed NSW government plan

aerial view of horses on grass and stream

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

Which species should we celebrate?

When species are featured on a mint, it elevates their profile, engenders public affection and, according to the Royal Australian Mint, helps “ tell the stories of Australia ” .
Australia ’ s native species are coherent – frequently the underdog fight for a fair go in a harsh environment. surely that ’ s a narrative besides worth telling .
In reaction to this article, chair of the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, Trevor Weatherhead, said the Royal Australian Mint “ took the opportunity, after representation from our industry, to highlight a very important pollinator that makes an enormous contribution to the australian economy [ … ] If people want other pollinators to be on a coin then they can approach the mint to do therefore. ”

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