Honey is not only delicious but bees’ pollination services are estimated to equate to 6 billion dollars annually to the Australian economy. Overall, bees are an amazing species. From speaking with the Honey Tasmania stallholders I learnt that each bee only produces one-quarter of a teaspoon of honey in their lifetime.
If you have recently visited the Honey Tasmania stall at Harvest Market you might have noticed a sticker on their honey stating ‘2019 drought’. Hence, our conversation also had a serious tone as I also heard that the long dry, fires and high temperatures are all taking a toll on bees and honey production in Tasmania. This simple sticker is an indicator of the impacts of climate change. This year there has been less nectar due to lack of rain and dry soil. What nectar there has been is sometimes too warm for bees to use and the fires that ravaged the state further affected bee numbers and nectar production.
The iconic Tasmanian leatherwood honey this year has seen a significant decline in production due to these conditions. Leatherwood trees have been around for over 65 million years and are endemic to Tasmania. Pivotal importance are old growth forests as leatherwood trees do not produce nectar until late in life. Once old growth forest is burnt the return of leatherwood trees is not guaranteed either due to competition from more fire adapted species. Coupled with the dry hot weather, this year has resulted in only 10 to 30 per cent of the annual leatherwood honey production.
Further ramifications from the long hot dry conditions on the honey industry are that some beekeepers are already feeding their bees sugar syrup due to hive honey store being so low. Added the impacts will continue into next season’s pollination due to the reduced number of bees. Honey Tasmania are hopeful that this will only be one bad year that bees and the industry will be able to recover from. But as the climate change projections indicate otherwise multiple bad years could significantly reduce the ability to bounce back.
Author: Meghan Bond