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Beekeeper handfeeding hive in the grip of drought, pollen shortage

Eric Barker, Friday October 26, 2018 - 19:51 EDT
ABC image
Beekeeper John Ferguson uses a supplement to handfeed his bees with the west in the grip of drought. - ABC

A beekeeper in outback Queensland has started handfeeding his stock as the drought creates a pollen shortage in the area.

The story captured the imagination of , who posted extensively about it on social media.

"The mayor of Bulloo Shire Council John 'Tractor' Ferguson said it was so dry he was handfeeding his bees," Mr Turnbull said in a Facebook video.

"I thought he was pulling my leg, but it actually is true," the Prime Minister said.



The Bulloo Shire in Queensland's channel country has been drought-declared for the past seven years, creating a tough environment for local industries.

Local mayor and beekeeper John 'Tractor' Ferguson has been producing honey in the channel country for about 40 years.

Mr Ferguson said handfeeding the bees was a job he often had to do, but with extended drought conditions he was feeding more than ever.

"2010 was the last good rain we had and we've just had hit-and-miss storms ever since," he said.



"When the seasons are good we don't have to worry about it, the bees go out naturally and get the natural pollen, which is better for them."

Mr Ferguson said handfeeding the bees was not profitable.

"We're just keeping our hives alive so when it does rain we don't have to go and buy more," he said.

"Bees build up very quick, give them six weeks and they're back strong again if they've got a supply of good quality pollen and good nectar."

Dry country running out of honey

With a lack of pollen on the trees Mr Ferguson has been making up a supplement with flour, brewer's yeast, and vitamins mixed into sugar syrup.

In recent years Mr Ferguson had moved his bees to New South Wales to find natural pollen, but he said with drought conditions interstate he was facing complete reliance on the supplement.

"There's nothing down there — it's as dry as it is up at home," he said.

"We'll just keep feeding them the supplement; we can keep feeding them sugar syrup and pollen until further notice.

"Maybe there might be a bit of canola we can go to around August or sometimes we're looking at starting to lose some bees into the almond pollination."

Mr Ferguson said while these were temporary options for his bee hives, the ultimate solution was rain.

"We prayed for rain in Thargomindah today, so I hope the old priest has got a contact for us," he said.


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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