Apiarists hope to kick off the honey-making season with warm days, but they are also keeping fingers crossed for rainfall.
- A beekeeper industry spokesperson says some honey regions still have not had enough rain
- Honey production could be down if the forecast La Nina event does not arrive
- Southern regions have a promising start due to late winter rains
Not all regions are in an ideal position for the start of the season which began this month, so rainfall is likely to be a decider for a productive season.
Australian Honey Bee Industry Association chair Trevor Weatherhead said the situation was different in every state.
“Tasmania is looking reasonably good [with rainfall] … and Queensland is in drought,” he said.
“I think beekeepers Australia-wide are looking skywards for some rain because if we don’t get much rain in the next few months, what’s there might not even produce honey.”
He said the forecast La Nina event would make a difference if it arrives, but if it does not, honey production would be “certainly well below average”.
“The average crop within Australia is probably 20,000 tonnes of honey,” he said.
“With New South Wales being the biggest producer and Queensland being the one behind that, if they have a drought, the predictions are at least a third to 50 per cent down on an average crop.
“We could be looking at anything as low as 10-15,000 tonnes of honey if we don’t get some rain in the meantime.”
Mr Weatherhead said while a prolonged spring rain would impact on the bees’ nectar collecting, an “average amount” was vital for making nectar available to the bees.
“Sometimes if the trees are flowering and there’s no moisture in the ground, they won’t produce nectar even though there are flowers there,” he said.
Southern regions buzzing with promise
In South Australia’s productive south-east, Tintinara apiarist Ben Hooper said the season was looking promising, and apiarists would likely harvest an average yield.
However, it was a different story throughout the Limestone Coast’s dry winter.
“We were affected pretty badly by a late frost in July,” he said.
“It’s had quite an acute effect on some of the bud on our eucalypts, which is not very common, for it to get that cold to burn them off.
“Some of that is 100 per cent affected, so every tree has lost its buds. In pockets, it is quite profound, but in other areas where there is higher elevation, it hasn’t been quite as severe.
“That has slightly hampered our short-term prospects, but light rain throughout August and a bit more promise through spring is always a good thing for us.”
Fire and rain
Concern over rainfall is not the only challenge the industry faces after the bushfires of last summer.
Mr Weatherhead said not only were more than 12,000 hives lost across the nation but “a massive amount” of native flora was burnt.
“Some of those areas will take years and years to come back. In the meantime the beekeepers will be looking for alternate crops to go to.
“As long as we can get some rain that would help and open up more areas that would be available for beekeepers to go into,” he said.