Apiarists (Beekeepers) experienced very difficult conditions during the year. Apiarists are essentially landless farmers, required to move their honey bee livestock from agistment on one source of flowering tree, shrub, crop or ground flora to another as they become available. Whilst bees gain some of their requirements from flowering crops at certain times of the year, they are also heavily reliant on access to native flora, especially eucalypts, for most of the year. Apiarists are large users of public land for these purposes. Initially in the year the widespread east coast drought severely impacted the floral resource base. Compounding the impacts of drought, bushfires in the middle of the year impacted 43% of the available public NSW apiary ranges in State Forests and 35% of National Park’s apiary sites. Unlike traditional livestock producers, apiarists cannot sell bees to reduce production when traditional food sources are not available. Unless supplementary food is provided during prolonged drought and severe bushfires, the bees will die. Consequently, lower production and higher feed costs significantly impacted apiarist’s profitability.
Pesticides are used in agriculture, horticulture and in field and forest situations to control a wide range of insect pests and weeds.
Practices to minimise damage to honey bees from pesticides are essential within programs developed by persons applying pesticides and by beekeepers operating apiaries in areas where pesticides are applied.
The DPI Website offers information on the best practices for beekeepers to reduce bee poising and recognise symptoms of pesticide poisoning.
DPI research results show almond producers and beekeepers can boost production outcomes by better timing the removal of hives from almond pollination.
The research published in the Applied and General Entomology Volume 47 notes Bloom progression is the preferred predictor of when to remove Honey Bee hives from almond orchards and outlines how almond growers and beekeepers can make timely decisions to ensure maximum yield for the grower and timely hive release for the beekeeper’s next production event.
Production is estimated to have fallen 30% offset by an estimated price increase of 18% 129. Production is likely to have fallen by more than 50% in the latter half of the year after the bushfires over summer. The output for honey and beeswax is estimated to have fallen 12% yoy 8 to $57 million. The importance of bees to agriculture is much greater than the value of honey and beeswax produced. At least 35 crops (including almonds, avocados, cherries, apples and berries) rely on bees for pollination for their own production. Without honey bee pollination, crop yields would be significantly reduced.
The value of Australian honey and beeswax exports increased 12% to $59.5 million 94 during 2019-20. Exports from NSW declined 6% to $9.5 million. The largest market for Australian exports is China (30%) followed by the United States (13%). Both Australia and NSW were also significant importers of honey and beeswax, primarily from New Zealand (65%) but also from China (23%). In 2019-20 imports decreased 10% to $58 million. China is both a large buyer of Australian honey and supplier of cheaper honey. Australia has traditionally been net exporter of honey and beeswax however, a surge in cheaper imports from China from 2015 meant Australia became a net importer. For 2019-20 Australia again became a net exporter primarily due to a 51% increase in exports to China.
The compounding impact of drought and fire during 2019-20 severely impacted NSW apiarists. Even with rain, industry recovery will take longer than other livestock sectors as trees don’t produce nectar and pollen immediately. Some trees will take many years to recover from burning and/or drought. Bushfires have also reduced the number of apiarist’s sites available on public land. Given the financial strain on the industry, and the importance of honey bees and pollination services to other industries, in particular horticulture, the NSW Government offered a subsidy during the year to assist apiarist feed their hives and maintain the honey bee population. Nevertheless, production is expected to decline further next year. Over the longer term, increasing demand for pollination services from horticulture, primarily from almond growers, is expected to support industry growth.