AUSTRALIA may be looking at a 50% cut in honey production because of bee shortages and dry weather.
Even in the Gympie region, where flowers are blooming and bees are busy, beekeeper and Valley Bees chairman Athol Craig says "topsy turvy weather" means supplies are likely to be unreliable this year.
"Before the drought ended, beekeepers didn't quite know where to take their hives, because there was nothing flowering."
That had weakened hives, which depend on variety of pollen for nutrition.
"In a drought there is no real ground flora.
"The strength of bee hives is dependant to a large extent on diversity of pollen and nectar.
"Pollen varies in protein content, so bees often don't forage on it.
"You need diversity of pollen to keep bees strong.
"But suddenly everything has flowered and the bees are very strong.
"The bees are predicting a mild winter, just looking at their behaviour.
"Even the trees are confused by a year in which rain did not come until the end of the wet season.
"All my citrus and stone fruit trees have flowered heavily," he said yesterday.
"The seem to think it's spring. The blue gums are in heavy bud and flowering about two months early."
He said honey supplies were insecure because many beekeepers would be wanting to leave honey in the hives, in case conditions change for the worse.
But uncertainty after the production problems of the recent dry weather will lead to a compounding effect as bee keepers conserve what honey they have, in case the hives need it to survive.
"The unusual weather we're having this year is harder to predict," he says.