Busy bees struggle in the heat

IT was a tough time for beekeepers last year and 2014 is looking to be even worse.

The Australia Honey Bee Industry Council says abnormal weather conditions are set to deliver the lowest national honey yields in at least a decade.

A combination of excessive heat, flood and drought across Australia is to blame.

Terang beekeeper Michael Blain said although this year would be hard, he believed he would fare better than last season.

“I reckon it’s going to be a low-yielding year ... last year was the toughest (I’ve experienced),” Mr Blain said.

“I’m going out to boxes now and they’ve got nothing in them.”

He said the heat was responsible, causing a lack of pollination and bee performance.

“If it gets too hot the bees will only be charting in water to keep the hives hydrated.

“The trees drop all their cups, or the gum trees drop all their flowers off them.”

Beekeeper Chris Knox of Hampden Honey, north-east of Camperdown, echoed Mr Blain’s comments, saying 2014 was looking difficult but better than last season.

He said how this season shaped up would be a matter of “wait and see”. 

“Every area is different. Victoria should fare average to below, but then I’m not an industry expert,” Mr Knox said.

“Last year was atrocious. This year, it’s early (to say).”

The hot weather hasn’t been too fierce for Mr Knox’s crop.

“I’ve got bees on river red gum and it loves the hot weather. Although it’s too hot for some — that’s been the worry all week.”

The Australia Honey Bee Industry Council said in extreme heatwave conditions beeswax honeycombs could melt inside the hive. 

The heat forces bees to remain inside and collectively fan their wings in an attempt to keep the hive cool. 

Council executive director Trevor Weatherhead said honey stock was now the scarcest it had been in more than 10 years and it was important for Australians to support the local honey industry.

“An estimated 65 per cent of agricultural production in Australia depends on pollination by honeybees with pollination services to Australian agriculture being valued at more $1.7 billion per annum,” Mr Weatherhead said.

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