GYMPIE region orchardists and croppers are facing a New Year environmental crisis after extreme heat wiped out millions of the bees they depend on for pollination.
Only months after Gympie region bee men led the move to recruit new beekeepers into an industry decimated by chemical and insect pests, a new crisis has emerged.
This time, the threat is a shortage of the native bees which have helped replace the vital pollination work of domestic honeybees.
Gympie apiarist Glenbo Craig yesterday warned that recent extreme heat "has impacted dramatically on native stingless bees over a wide area".
At an individual level, some bee keepers have lost many thousands of dollars worth of native hives.
"MANY hives have been lost and others weakened.
"Reports of major losses are still flowing in, with quite a number of keepers losing over half their hives," Gympie apiarist Glenbo Craig said yesterday.
"Operators in the native bee industry are very concerned," he said.
Glenbo and his father Athol warned last year of the need for more bee keepers to fulfil the vital pollination role of the industry.
The emergence of a native bee pollination industry was boosted by the honeybee crisis.
They warned bee shortages would slash yields of fruit, nuts and fruit-vegetables such as zucchinis, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, tomatoes and avocadoes.
Gympie region's increasingly significant macadamia industry is also heavily dependent on bees, including native bees, which the Craigs say work well in conjunction with honeybees to maximise pollination.
Glenbo Craig said that with hives selling for between $200 and $400 each, one stingless beekeeper in Brisbane had lost 56 out of his 70 hives.
"In Maryborough, one beekeeper lost 15 out of 20 hives.
"I'm hearing from people who've lost four out of five, 14 out of 24 and 10 out of 20 hives," he said.
Local native beekeeper and educator, Chris Fuller of Kin Kin Native Bees, had a message on his business telephone yesterday that the hive selling side of his family business had no stock at the moment.
Athol and Glenbo Craig channelled their concerns into forming Valley Bees, a Gympie-based network aimed at encouraging bee keepers of all kinds.
Glenbo Craig told The Gympie Times this week that the native bee crisis would be a big item at the group's annual general meeting, tomorrow at Kandanga Hall from 1.30pm.
"People have had big losses and we don't want the lessons to be wasted.
"We want to collate the information from these drastic losses," he said.