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Clever queen bee cab service saving hives hit by postal delays

Nicole Madigan, April 6, 2022 7:00PM Kids News

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The Queen Bee Chariot is an ingenious new taxi service helping queen bees survive in transit. Pictured is driver Chico Hazik from Silver Top Taxis with beekeeper Craig Scott in Echuca in country Victoria. Picture: supplied media_cameraThe Queen Bee Chariot is an ingenious new taxi service helping queen bees survive in transit. Pictured is driver Chico Hazik from Silver Top Taxis with beekeeper Craig Scott in Echuca in country Victoria. Picture: supplied

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It could be the most expensive taxi ride ever to save Australia’s bees.

Without their queen, beehives cannot survive – but delayed postal services during the Covid-19 pandemic and excessive* heat have led to many of the monarchs* dying on the way to their future hives.

This tragic situation prompted Bega Cheese, maker of Australian B Honey, to take swift action.

The company paid $826 for a private taxi to make a four-and-a-half-hour trip, to ensure queen bees were delivered safely thanks to the guaranteed journey time.

media_cameraPrecious cargo: beekeeper David Briggs carefully places the special transport container for queen bees in one of Victoria’s new Queen Bee Chariots. Picture: supplied

Bega Foods general manager Matt Gray said his company had commissioned* several rides since, through its regal* driving service dubbed the Queen Bee Chariot*.

Run by Silver Top Taxis in Victoria, the Chariot kicked off in February and has supported queen bee breeder David Briggs during the season.

The service has safely transported more than 10 queen bees to their new hives, from Glenrowan to Traralgon.

“We believe that it all starts with the bees, they’re so critical,” Mr Gray said.

“When B Honey found out about the issue queen bee breeders were facing, we knew how important it was to help provide support and raise awareness of the issue.”

media_cameraCovid-19 has caused extended delays in postal delivery services that have had dire consequences for the already vulnerable bee population.

It’s difficult to say whether queen bee breeders will face the same challenges next season, but if they do, Mr Gray said B Honey would be open to finding a way to support the industry.

“We’d also call out to others in the industry and work out how we can solve these issues together, when and if they arise in the future,” he said.

Australian Queen Bee Breeders* Association secretary Corinne Jordan said the breeding season had been “very challenging, especially since Covid-19, because Australia Post can’t guarantee its express postal service”.

media_cameraThe queen bee’s survival depends on temperature, how much food is left and how many attendants* survive the journey. Breeder. David Briggs showcases a queen bee, indicated by the yellow dot. Picture: supplied

“There’s only a certain period of time for putting the queen bee in the case with food and worker bees to attend to her,” Ms Jordan said.

“And the worker bees don’t live particularly long lives. Transportation needs to be under about four days.

“Their survival also depends on temperature, how much food is left, and how many attendants* survive. Once the attendants die or food runs out, it’s all over.

“If they do arrive alive … they’ve been through a really stressful event (and) their long-term survival will be questionable.”

media_cameraThe Queen Bee Chariot has supported beekeeper David Briggs through a challenging bee breeding season. Picture: supplied

Ms Jordan said commercial beekeepers risked losing a lot of money and hobby beekeepers could lose their entire hives.

“Driving is not a viable* solution because it would be too costly,” she said.

“I don’t know how that could be financially viable with the price of fuel and the location of most beekeepers.

“Postage is an affordable service at $15 (in a specially-designed package with food), and we have had a lot of success over the years.

“Our best solution so far has been to put GPS* trackers inside the package, so they can be intercepted* if they’re (the queens) not going to get to their destination alive.”

GLOSSARY

  • excessive: more of something than is usual, healthy or expected
  • monarchs: someone who reigns over a kingdom or empire (or hive!), a sovereign ruler.
  • chariot: carriage, ancient vehicle used to convey royalty, formerly horse-drawn
  • breeders: someone who breeds animals or plants
  • attendants: female worker bees that feed and care for the queen bee
  • viable: workable, practical, feasible
  • GPS: global positioning system, radio navigation that uses satellite signals to fix locations
  • intercepted: stopped, headed off, interrupted, obstructing someone or something en route

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What two main factors have led to monarchs dying en route?
  2. How much did Bega Cheese pay for the initial cab to safely deliver queen bees?
  3. How many queens has the Queen Bee Chariot successfully transported so far?
  4. Transportation needs to occur within how many days to give the bees the best chance?
  5. According to Ms Jordan, what has been the best solution so far for delivering queens?

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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Write a letter
Do you think the government should step in to help the queen bee breeders? Write a letter to the Kids News Editor explaining your opinion on this question. Remember that the purpose of your letter is to convince your readers that your opinion is the right one.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Civics and Citizenship

2. Extension
Can you think of a better solution to the problem of getting the queen bees to their new hives safely and on time? Write a description of your solution or create a flow-chart diagram that explains it.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Stretch your sentence
Find a “who” in the cartoon – a person or an animal. Write it down.

Add three adjectives to describe them better.

Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?

Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.

Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.

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