Honey supply threat following bushfires

Wednesday, 05 February, 2020

Honey supply threat following bushfires

Hive + Wellness Australia is calling on the federal government for urgent assistance to the beekeeping industry, after visiting drought- and bushfire-affected beekeepers throughout Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Chief Operating Officer Ben McKee and other team members travelled to a number of areas, particularly in the Northern Tablelands and Blue Mountains, where significant beekeeping country has been adversely impacted. It was an important trip to check on the welfare of beekeepers who supply honey for Hive + Wellness’s Capilano brand, and confirmed that the bushfires and extreme conditions have put many family-owned beekeeping businesses under significant stress.

Dr McKee said: “In some ways it was even worse than we feared. We saw vast swathes of burnt and drought-stricken country with little in the way of flora for bees to feed on. Many of our beekeeping mates have lost hives, while the long-term impact of lost bushland is devastating. Despite recent rainfall, it is going to take several years for some of these areas to regenerate and sustain healthy beehives again — there won’t be sufficient food for some time. Beekeepers, the nation’s forgotten farmers, need urgent government support to get through this.”

Dr McKee noted that honey bees were important not just for the production of honey, but for the country’s agricultural industry as a whole. “Without bees, fresh produce will be adversely impacted, including apples, cucumbers and other vegetables. Some crops, like almonds, avocadoes and blueberries, are 100% dependent on honey bee pollination.”

Australians might also be surprised that bees play a key role in pollinating lucerne hay crops that help feed large livestock, he added. “It’s not hard to see the potential damage to Australian agriculture from an ailing beekeeping industry. I believe our politicians understand this, and we will work with them in any way needed to secure the assistance so desperately needed by beekeepers. Right now, it is critical that beekeepers receive immediate access to undamaged bushland to nurture their bee hives.”

Hive + Wellness’s comments come after the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC) called on the federal government to coordinate state government land managers in providing immediate and ongoing access to unburned public land over autumn and winter. AHBIC Chair Peter McDonald said: “This is a national problem which threatens food crop production and will also lead to shortages of Australian honey.”

Dr McKee said beekeepers were showing amazing strength in dealing with the challenges. “Despite obvious hardship, beekeepers are getting on with the job. Their priority right now is the health of their bees, over and above honey production or pollination. Many beekeepers are travelling thousands of kilometres more than usual, to find areas with sufficient flowering blossoms. This excessive travel, combined with little to no income, is putting great pressure on Aussie beekeepers.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Jag_cz

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