The Goodacre Memorial Award was created to perpetuate the memory of the late Bill Goodacre. Bill provided 35 years of meritorious service to the beekeeping industry during his employ with the NSW Department of Agriculture. The award has historically been recognised as the peak national award bestowed upon individuals who have equally provided significant service to the Australian beekeeping industry.
Dr John Rhodes is a well-deserving recipient of the Goodacre Memorial Award. John has been in the beekeeping industry for all of his working life, including forty years of service in the Queensland and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI). In 1962 John, who already had some years of beekeeping experience, was employed by Qld DPI as a ‘cadet’ apiary officer. By 1976 John had risen through the ranks to become the Senior Apicultural Officer. He held this position in the Qld DPI up until 1991 when he took a redundancy.
During his time in Queensland John travelled extensively for the beekeeping industry. This included study trips to the United States of America, United Kingdom, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Thailand and Papua New Guinea. He also travelled extensively within Australia, particularly into Northern Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands.
Some of John’s achievements while working for Qld DPI include;
- Rewriting the Queensland Apiaries Act and Regulations in 1979.
- Instrumental in forming the Australian Queen Bee Breeders Association in 1985.
- Part of the organising committee of the second Australian International Bee Congress held on the Gold Coast in 1988.
- Developed a monitoring program for exotic bee diseases in 1986.
- Involved in updating Qld DPI publication on Honey Flora in 1987.
- Appointed convenor of the Australian Horticultural Corporation working party to develop the Exotic Disease in Honey Bee Bill and contingency manuals for the control of seven exotic honey bee diseases in 1987.
- Writing the first Ausvet Plan for honeybees.
- Developed the Green Paper on the Apiaries Act for Qld in 1990
John then headed out to try commercial queen breeding. This venture did not work out due to a number of reasons including a series of poor seasons but anyone who knows John would recognise he is no salesman or self-promoter. Prior to joining NSW Agriculture, John was still involved with studies for the good of the industry, including a project for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) in conjunction with the Qld DPI on the Floral Resources of Value to the Queensland Beekeeping Industry.
John joined the NSW DPI on the 1st of April 1997 where he took up the position of Apiary Officer at Tamworth. John remained a Queenslander throughout his employment with NSW DPI travelling between Tamworth and his family in Queensland on the Sunshine Coast on a regular basis. John lost no time in successfully applying for and involving himself in a number of major research projects that eventually created quite significant international interest. John remained working at Tamworthuntil his retirement at the beginning of July 2008.
One of the most significant and notable of John’s projects was his investigation into what influenced the quality of commercially-produced queen bees. This is an issue that is of major concern to commercial beekeepers. Some of this research was conducted to a background of sceptics on the value of such work. Factors such as the age of the queen at introduction to a production hive and her early performance success, the period for which the queen is receptive to mating, the effect of disease levels on queen survival, the impact of the drone fertility and factors affecting drone fertility including age, genetics, nutrition and sperm number, volume and viability were examined. This work was ground-breaking, created significant international interest, and has resulted in positive changes to the industry.
His study on the age of the queens at introduction to a production hive and their survival was published in Apidologie in 2004. It was also published by RIRDC “Successful introduction and performance of queen bees in a commercial apiary”. Some commercial queen bee breeders now advertise that queen bees are sold at an older age reflecting the findings of John’s work.
Other work John was heavily involved with while with NSW DPI included:
- The management of AFB disease
- Development of competency standards for the bee industry on queen bee rearing and artificial insemination
- Quality assurance standards for the Australian bee industry.
Over the 1999-2000 season John conducted a research project that demonstrated honey bee pollination was responsible for a 16% increase in cotton yields, which at the time equated to an increase of $500 per hectare to the cotton grower. Flowering cotton crops are considered a threat to honeybees due to the use of harsh insecticides. However with the reduction in the use of insecticides, integrated pest management systems and the positive impact of the presence of honeybees demonstrated by John’s research, it is feasible that cotton growers will hire bee hives to pollinate cotton crops in the not-too distant future. As a result of John’s research finding the University of Western Sydney took on a PhD student to further investigate this field of study.
His research with cotton led John to initiate meetings between the cotton industry and beekeepers to find pathways for both parties to work together. A web page was developed with the Cotton Research Corporation to allow cotton growers to become better informed about insecticide use, to minimise any harm to honeybees in the area.
Two Primefacts of immense value to both the beekeeping industry and farmers on the impact of pesticides on honeybees were researched over quite a considerable time by John. They are available on the NSW DPI website with the titles “Pesticides a guide to their effects on honeybees” and “Pesticides – reducing damage to honeybees”. John became very interested in the management of small hive beetles and worked tirelessly on the approval for diatomaceous earth to be used to help control this major pest.
On top of all this, John was involved with all the activities that one participates in as an extension officer for NSW DPI. Some of these included co-authoring the NSW DPI Agskills book on Beekeeping; the writing of information sheets on a range of topics (Primefacts); presentations at numerous field days, meetings and conferences; co-presenting departmental short courses in beekeeping; plus answering a multitude of mixed and varied enquiries over his 11 years while working in NSW, not to mention his previous years in Qld.
In addition to John’s always meticulous approach to each project that he undertook, the hallmark of John’s work throughout his career has been his outstanding ability to convey to his audience, through the written word, the results of his research and other work. His command of descriptive language reveals the keen, analytical mind of a competent investigator, somewhat at odds with his quiet, intelligent demeanour.
Throughout John’s career his academic achievements are notable, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Entomology from the University of Queensland in 1969. Always keen to further his knowledge and skills regarding bees, he completed a Master of Science in Entomology at the same university in 1982 and when most are ready to relax and retire John’s quest for knowledge continued, completing his PhD in 2011, well after he had officially retired. The title of his thesis Quality of commercially reared queen and drone honeybees in Eastern Australia, summed up John’s particular passion and dedication for this notable area of study.
Many of John’s major achievements have been mentioned but this was only part of John’s contribution to the Australian beekeeping industry. John was a very humble and quiet man who was never about selling himself or his achievements even though these were well worth publicising. Because he was so quiet, he was affectionately nicknamed ‘Rowdy’ by many beekeepers in the Tamworth region.
Author: Doug Somerville