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Queensland honey production drops off as dry weather causes problems for apiarists and hives

Lara Webster, Tuesday September 12, 2017 - 12:35 EST
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Bees throughout the Mackay region lost a lot of nectar after Tropical Cyclone Debbie. - ABC

The lack of rain throughout Queensland is causing problems for apiarists and their hives.

The dry conditions mean there has not been much nectar around for the pollinators and in turn they are producing less honey.

For those based around Mackay in North Queensland, the force of winds during Tropical Cyclone Debbie in March knocked many flowers and buds off plants so there was already less nectar available.

That was a blow before the dry conditions rolled in during winter,

Paul Marsh is a commercial honey producer based at Sarina Range south of Mackay.

He has not extracted honey for five-and-a-half months, and in a good year he would take around 100 kilos of honey from each of his hives.

Luckily Mr Marsh has a stockpile of honey but he — like other local beekeepers — has had to take up part-time work to supplement his income.

"All the beekeepers in the area thought it would have been a good year with all the rain that we had, but a lot of the trees were cleaned out with the leaves and buds," Mr Marsh said.

"There's been a few beekeeper mates who have had to go back to part-time work. One of the main retailers has actually sold up," he said.

"I do not plan on doing that but we will see how we go."

Leaving honey for the bees

Further inland at Clermont, beekeeper Joanne Knobel is in a slightly better position.

Many of their surrounding trees and plants survived Tropical Cyclone Debbie, and the rain at that time was a welcome relief.

In the winter since the wet weather, conditions have dried right out.

As a result Jo-Anne Knobel has not been bottling any honey to ensure the survival of her bees.

"We leave enough on the bees so they remain healthy and have got enough food. We are holding out for rain," Ms Knobel said.

"That is it for honey for us for a while."

Fortunately her customers in metropolitan areas and the Central Queensland region have been understanding.

"They understand that that is what our product is, it is natural, it depends on season, on the weather. But that does not stop people wanting it."

Across the state

Queensland Beekeepers Association president Bryce Jensen has been travelling throughout the state meeting with beekeepers.

He has been as far north as Port Douglas and he has noticed there is not a great deal of pollen around anywhere.

"As I travelled north the only thing I really saw flowering was some red gum but most districts were too dry to yield nectar, that was along the coast," Mr Jensen said.

"There are areas of the coast in the south with some grey ironbark that has got a future we could get some rain."

He went on to say that the western channel country would usually be a good source of winter pollen but conditions there are also too dry.

When the bees are struggling to find nectar, it is not just them and their beekeepers that suffer.

Food crops that rely on bee pollination such as pumpkins, cucumbers and macadamias also feel the pain.

"I hear that there is a shortfall of up to 500 hives in North Queensland for pollination,'' he said.

''They need to be strong hives to pollinate the crops and this is not happening."


© ABC 2017

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