Queensland beekeepers are warning unless they get help crops could start to fail.
World bee day was May 20 and the Queensland Beekeepers’ Association marked the day with a call for financial help from the government, warning crops will fail if starving bees don’t make it through winter.
The combination of drought and bushfires has left little food in the wild and many commercial beekeepers are being forced to hand feed their insects to keep them alive.
In February the Queensland Government announced a $1 million emergency package, including a $650,000 contribution to the wavering of all apiary fees and a $350,000 sugar stockpile to feed the bees.
Queensland Beekeepers Association president Jo Martin said many commercial beekeepers were in serious financial and ecological trouble.
“It’s crippling us at the moment, in 134 years of beekeeping in Queensland, we have never seen conditions like this before,” Ms Martin said.
“We are in the fight for our lives.”
Ms Martin added that the industry desperately needed more financial help because food security was at stake.
“The real concern for us is how are we going to keep those beehives alive at the moment, you’ve got beekeepers out there that haven’t had any income in over 18 months so we’re really starting to get to crunch time,” Ms Martin said.
Queensland Beekeepers have now applied for a second round of funding. “We have spoken to the Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, Mark Furner and he has flagged it with other departments.”
“If we don’t see a second round of funding for beekeepers to supplement their hives, we won’t have the volume of bees ready to go and do pollination work.
“Without those healthy bee numbers fruit volumes may be down and the quality of produce may drop.”
Ms Martin says Honey Production is a bi-product of a healthy bee industry.
“You can tell by honey production, how healthy bee populations and the industry is.”
Australian Honeybee Industry Council chair Peter McDonald says “It’s been estimated that Queensland’s honey crop will be down by about 90 per cent and New South Wales might be down by between 60 and 80 per cent,” Mr McDonald said.
Of the 79,000 commercial hives in Queensland — 45,000 of them are used for crop pollination — with avocado, seedless watermelon, strawberries, blueberries and macadamias are all dependent on bees.
One of the companies that supplies commercial pollination services to Far North Queensland is G & A Apiaries.
Owner Graham Armstrong said that he and his son now have over 1000 beehives “We travel to farms all over Queensland from the Burdekin in the south through to the Tablelands and up into Lakeland,” he said
“We drop a truckload of hives off and let them do their work for a few weeks and then we move the bee’s onto the next farm, as there aren’t enough native bee’s left to carry the load.”