Beekeepers say they are facing a “honey drought” in central Victoria that has seen little honey produced during the year.
A dry season that has caused few flowers to blooms is what has the apiarists worried.
Conditions in 2018 have been tough Castlemaine beekeeper Peter McDonald said.
Chairman of the Australian Honeybee Industry Council, Mr McDonald’s family has been beekeeping in the area for five generations.
In a good year his operation can produce up to 200 tonnes of honey. In a bad year it’s as little as 30 tonnes.
“The major problem we’re fighting right now is just the lack of honey that’s being produced and the lack of income that comes on top of that,” Mr McDonald said.
“For the 2018 year to date there’s been very little honey produced across Victoria.”
Prospects for the next six months are just as bad.
Mr McDonald attributes the honey drought to climate and weather patterns.
Spring would normally provide an abundance of flowers for the bees, but dry weather has meant these are sparse, Mr McDonald said.
This comes on top of a reduced honey production in autumn, which Mr McDonald said was due to a dry season.
Winter rainfall was 19 percent below the mean of 203 millimetres across Victoria. The Bureau of Meterology’s seasonal outlook suggests dryer than average weather is likely to continue for the rest of the year.
As a longtime beekeeper Mr McDonald has seen hard conditions before. While things are hard right now he is optimistic that conditions will improve.
“It’s very tough, it’s a matter of hopefully riding through it. The rains will come, and the trees and flowers will recover,” he said.
Drought is one of the key challenges facing Australian beekeepers according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.
The number of commercial beekeepers fell by around 25 percent in the decade before 2015-2016, according to a report from the ABARES.
Seventy percent of beekeepers identified drought as having affected the number of flowers their bees have access to.
In Victoria 84 percent of beekeepers said drought had affected their resources of flowers.
It’s very tough, it’s a matter of hopefully riding through it. The rains will come, and the trees and flowers will recover.Peter McDonald
The past five to seven years have been tough for owner of Harcourt based DMC Honey Matthew Carpenter.
Recently his business has produced around 24 tonnes of honey per year. In a good year Mr Carpenter would expect to produce around 36 tonnes.
He’s found conditions dry over the past five years, which has forced him to take his bees further afield for honey. This has seen his business spend $20,000-$30,000 a year in fuel costs.
The dry weather one of a list of woes making things harder for Mr Carpenter’s operation.
Climate change and cheap imported honey are making it tougher for his business to compete.
Mr Carpenter believes that the trees he relies on around Echuca haven’t flowered in season since floods in 2011.
Instead he’s had to rely on flora such as Canola and Lucerne for his bees.
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