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Happy bees are back in business throughout Queensland following recent rainfall

Lara Webster and Renee Cluff, Tuesday November 7, 2017 - 12:09 EDT
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Recent widespread rain has caused a rejuvenation of pollen and nectar sources for honey bees. - ABC

Soaking spring rain in many parts of Queensland has spread some sunshine for beekeepers and their insects, following dry winter conditions which drained nectar and pollen supplies.

The prolonged drought led to hive losses through starvation and pests, which dried up commercial honey extraction.

Mackay beekeepers now extracting honey

In Mackay, record-breaking hot and dry conditions were preceded by Cyclone Debbie, which stripped trees of their flowers and buds.

Apiarist Barry Field, from the Central Queensland Beekeepers Association, said he went seven months without extracting any honey from his hives.

However, tree flowers and honey production are flourishing again, thanks to an October deluge.

"You see some nice new growth on the trees coming along," Mr Field said.

"It will take some pressure off, all commercial growers here in the Mackay area have had to take second jobs to try and get us through.

"It's still a long way from being a good honey flow but there has been some nice honey coming in and I got a bit of honey yesterday so it gives you that sense of hope again."

Far north Queensland hives on the road to recovery

Veteran far north Queensland beekeeper Maurie Damon lost 35 of his Atherton Tablelands hives, or 20 per cent of his bees, over winter.

"They were starved and the small hive beetle took advantage of the situation," he said.

"When the bees aren't strong enough to defend their hive, the beetle multiplies rapidly and lays eggs, which hatch into larvae which crawl over the surface of the honey and exude a matter which ferments the honey and makes the inside of the hive quite revolting and the bees just depart."

Mr Damon said he was extracting very little honey until recent rainfalls of about 130mm prompted tree flowering.

"The trees have just gone berserk up on the Tablelands so I've been taking off quite a bit of honey and most other beekeepers are also as happy as Larry."

Dalby was the place to bee over winter

Bryce Jensen from the Queensland Beekeepers' Association said winter conditions had been similar across the state but Dalby bucked the trend.

"Dalby had one of the best honey crops in living memory from the ironbark and we're not sure why, just some amazing flowering that kept going and it kept producing honey right through the cold months," Mr Jensen said.

"A lot of people came a fair way to that honey flow and there were guys there from New South Wales and even some from Victoria."

Bundaberg flash flooding floats hives

Mr Jensen said once the Dalby flowering finished, apiarists travelled to Bundaberg to pollinate the macadamia nuts and some became caught by flash floods when 373mm of rain fell in 24 hours.

"There were some hives that actually floated away which was pretty sad to see," Mr Jensen said.

"Guys went to pick up after the rain and the bees weren't there."

Mr Jensen is urging beekeepers to persevere through fickle weather conditions, particularly in the north, where the agricultural sector is 600 hives short for proficient pollination.

"It's a real hard call to get those guys to step up their numbers when nature's against them," he said.

Mr Damon said he had no choice but to persist, claiming he had caught bee fever.

"Once you get stung by a bee they put a venom into your blood system and it makes you their slave to work for them forever.


© ABC 2017

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