'Nowhere For Our Bees To Go': Bushfire, Drought And Vandalism Halt NSW Honey Production

Apiarists are calling for NSW National Parks to open to beekeepers after bushfire wiped out 7,000 hives and destroyed “prime honey country”.

Fourth-generation honey producer Stephen McGrath still doesn’t know if all his bees are safe from bushfire, but even if they survive, there’s nowhere to put them -- especially after several hives were vandalised.

McGrath has been working to protect his hives and a mate’s property from bushfire on the South Coast.

“We’ve been taking bees out because we knew fire was coming,” he told 10 daily.

“We just left the ones we thought would be safe and there’s one lot we couldn’t get to. We don’t know if they’ve all survived.”

McGrath said cars ramming into hives is sadly not uncommon. Photo: supplied.

Frustratingly, moving the hives further inland near Yanco and Darlington Point hasn’t kept the valuable insects safe.

“Forty plus hives have been knocked over in the last six weeks and around half the bees are dead - it’s lost us thousands of dollars,” he said.

I don’t expect country people to do that sort of stuff. It just makes you angry and disappointed.

McGrath isn’t alone, as beekeepers affected by fire now look to find safe areas to move their hives into.

“It’s going to actually have serious consequences for bees and beekeepers because we’ve got nowhere for our bees to go now,” he said.

Vandalism like this costs beekeepers thousands of dollars. Photo: supplied

The NSW Apiarists’ Association (NSWAA) put in a request this week to the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service, asking for beekeeping to be permitted in more national parks.

“Beekeepers get the majority of honey from the forest but 43 percent of forest has been burnt and that was prime honey country around Batemans Bay and Tumbarumba,” NSWAA President Stephen Targett told 10 daily.

Instead of a government handout we’d prefer to be allowed to put bees in National Parks that haven’t been burnt, like Kosciusko, for the next four to five years.

Beekeeping is allowed in some national parks and NPWS can waive or reduce fees “for beekeeping sites during droughts, bushfires and other natural events when those events clearly have an impact on beekeeping activities.”

“The Government appreciates the concerns raised by the NSW Apiarists' Association,” a departmental spokesperson told 10 daily.

“The NPWS will meet with the NSW Apiarists' Association to discuss possible solutions that take into account the needs of native wildlife, which may rely on the same food sources.”

Beekeepers are already battling drought. Photo: David Trood via Getty

In the meantime, those with a sweet tooth can expect to see a small price hike for honey.

“After this month there won’t be honey production until spring except maybe for a little bit in unburnt areas,” Targett said.

“Buy Australian honey - that will help beekeepers who get the majority of money from honey sales.”

However, it’s not only honey production affected, with bee pollination services worth around six billion to Australian agriculture.

Bees are vital for pollinating many of Australia's crops. Photo: Getty

Almonds rely solely on bees for pollination, while crops like blueberries, macadamias and broccoli also use bees.

“There are 32 agricultural industries that rely on bees for pollination and almond pollination happens in August,” Targett said.

“With 7,000 hives destroyed and many of their field bees killed by fire, bee numbers are down so many beekeepers won’t be able to offer pollination services.”



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McGrath’s sole income comes from his bees and he is determined to continue his family’s 110-year beekeeping legacy going.

“We’ve got to buckle down and try and get the bees through,” he said.

“There are a lot of beekeepers who lost houses, bees and hives out there and it’s going to be about mates helping mates to survive.”

Feature Image: Getty