Fruit, nuts and vegie crisis as bees are burned out in eastern Australia
BUSHFIRES and drought have left Australia facing a pollination crisis which will affect supplies of all pollinated fruit, nuts and vegetables, bee keepers have warned.
Kin Kin beekeeper Chris Fuller said yesterday the direct impacts of drought and fires on farm production would be only part of the story as the nation faced recovery challenges, including huge losses for beekeepers.
Mr Fuller said the loss of millions of bees in fires that burned out hives and habitats in eastern Australia would mean potential multimillion-dollar losses for pollination-dependent orchardists and market croppers.
The damage would not be confined to honey shortages, but would affect all the crops that cannot be produced without pollination.
These include almonds, olives, macadamias, tomatoes, capsicums and all the pumpkin and melon vegetables and fruit.
Mr Fuller said some orchardists and farmers had been able to benefit from nearby commercial and native bee hives and useful populations of feral bees, which had gone bush after escaping from commercial hives.
They would no longer be able to rely on bees passing by.
“There won’t be a lot of that going on now,” Mr Fuller said, adding that many more farmers would have to pay beekeepers to leave hives on their properties.
“And it’s not a good time to be recovering, because bees also needed good flowering conditions.
“The flowers don’t have much nectar.
“They’ve got pollen. which gives the bees protein, but not the carbohydrates they need to keep working, to have energy and to make honey,” he said.
Because the problem was so widespread, there was a limit on what bee keepers could do to help, as they struggle to keep their own industry afloat, he said.