Australian Bees Devastated by Drought and Bushfires
Australian Beekeepers, the forgotten farmers, are seeking the use of public lands for their bees for survival purposes.
Droughts and bushfires have hit the Australian beekeeping industry so hard that many think it could take twenty years for it to recover. Either one of these is devastating, but when you get drought and bushfires simultaneously the damage is irreparable.
According to beekeeper Robert Seagrave, he’s never seen a season like this one in thirty years. He says much of the land, especially the heavy eucalypt region, will take two decades to regrow to where it was prior to the current disasters.
One of the biggest losses to apiarists is that trees have been burnt and destroyed by bushfires. They’ve had to ask the state government for access to overwinter their bees in national parks, a choice that has so far been off limits to them.
This 2:04-minute long video is a heartbreaking spotlight on the suffering of Australian wildlife during the drought and bushfires of 2019:
Seagrave has personally lost tens of thousands of dollars in production already, with no end in sight. He’s had to shift his loads of bees constantly to protect them, over a six-week period, because each time they were relocated the fires caught up with them and off they had to go again.
People rarely even consider that beekeeping is a form of farming, and they get caught up in such farming as beef, sheep and cattle. Beekeepers become the “forgotten farmers” when there is severe drought.
The Glen Innes region of New South Wales (NSW) is one of the most significant beekeeping areas in Australia. Pollination is a $14 billion national economy that is vital to many other Australian industries, like the billion-dollar almond industry. The almond is Australia’s largest horticultural export. Honey is itself worth about $120 million to Australia annually.
NSW Apiarists’ Association president, Stephen Targett, estimates that over 7,000 hives have been lost in NSW, 2,500 of them in the New England area alone. He believes the intense hot fires have totally killed many trees that will never come back, explaining that most Australian trees are adapted to cold burns. He, too, believes it could be several decades before the fire-decimated forests can produce pollen and nectar again. Thousands of hives must be fed.
They are seeking alternative pollen and nectar sources for the bees that survived and must keep them alive in the meantime, even though they are in a wasteland with over 4-million hectares of burnt forest and few food sources around them. Given the extreme circumstances, it is vital that they be allowed access to national parks, like beekeepers in Tasmania and Victoria, so their businesses remain viable and they don’t lose their bees.
The state government has shown support for apiarists during the crisis by supplying over 60-tons of bee sugar. A meeting with Parks and Wildlife Services is to take place soon to seek solutions taking the needs of local native wildlife into account as well, in case they reply on the same food sources as the bees.
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