Image: eucalyptus flowers
As Australian honey production volume drops, honey prices rise. Current estimates are that prices may rise 10% or more since national production is down on average 30%. In some areas, like Northern New South Wales and Southern Queensland which are particularly hard hit, it is down closer to 80%.
In Australia, at least one jar of honey can always be found in the pantry. It is used for sweetening beverages, on toast and to soothe a sore throat, amongst other things.
2019 appears to be the year of the worst honey crop in history. Experts believe the price of honey is about to sky rocket due to bush fires, drought, fierce heat and a shortage of honey production. Much honey comes from the eucalyptus trees. Lack of rain drastically alters the flowering patterns of trees, and this affects honey production. Trees are in desperate shape due to lack of rain and high stress and are not flowering. Those that do flower aren’t producing as much nectar as usual.
This National Geographic time-lapse video is 3:33-minute long and is a visual delight:
Around 1,500 commercial Australian beekeepers normally produce 25,000-35,000 tons of honey annually, according to the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council. But in May it was reported by South Australian beekeepers that their production may be down by as much as 50%-70% compared to the previous year. They are even low on reserve stock since there has been low production several years running.
Some beekeepers, although challenged by drought, are glad they are not dealing with bushfires. Some have 1,000 hives, each with tens of thousands of bees, so they are forced to lease out their bees for major crop pollinations like macadamia nuts, blueberry and avocados in the Victoria area, just to pay the bills. They may travel as much as 2,500 kilometers a week. It is strenuous for bees and beekeepers but keeps bees alive.
This 4:59-minute video is of bees pollinating eucalyptus flowers in Australia. Poor sound quality but fabulous imagery.
Keeping bees fed is a challenge when nectar and pollen are scarce. Some beekeepers hand-feed them a sugar solution just to keep them alive. This is time-consuming and costly, but there is no choice if they want their bees and business to survive.
Since rising honey prices affect all Australians, bee sure to help bees this season. Plant nectar producing pesticide-free flowers and keep water out for bees in your neighborhood, and buy 100% Australian honey instead of imports.
It is ill advised to hoard honey, but it would be prudent to pick up an extra jar or two next time you are at the supermarket. Support bees and beekeepers, since they are the foundation of Australian agriculture.
If you are an Australian beekeeper, please go to our Facebook page and share what is going on in your part of the country.