Bushfires are set to have a massive impact on commercial honey production, making hobby beekeepers essential to the future of the industry.

Story Jill Griffith  FairfaxPhotos

Peter McDonald, 51, is steeped in honey. He works in the family business McDonald Honey, with his wife Michelle, their daughter’s partner Matthew, and two other full-time staff. “We also have a casual employee who has been invaluable over this busy season,” Peter says. He describes the good season beekeepers are having in his corner of Victoria as a guilty pleasure – a pleasure because reaping large quantities of honey is always a pleasure. The guilt comes from knowing that many of his fellow beekeepers are doing it tough this year.

“The fires will have a massive impact on the honey industry,” Peter says. “There’s some good beekeeping country in the Queensland and NSW coastal areas, into Victoria and SA that has been burnt out. There will be a lot of hive losses. We can’t quantify how high those losses will be for a number of months. But the big impact will be the loss of the floral resources that we rely on. That could go on for 5–10 or more years. Some eucalypts that are heavily scorched may take 12–15 years to flower again. In areas where the eucalypts don’t re-sprout, but rather need to rely on seed to germinate and grow, it may be 20 years until there is a good flowering season.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #130

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2020