Bee industry reeling after major hive losses

Bee industry reeling after major hive losses

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The bee industry has been left reeling after the loss of about 2000 hives in recent SA fires.

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ALREADY affected by the drought, the bee industry has been left reeling after the loss of about 2000 hives in recent SA fires.

SA Apiarists Association president Josh Kennett estimates about 900 hives were lost in mainland fires and up to 1100 hives on Kangaroo Island, but numbers were still being verified.

Flora for the bees has also taken a major hit, with 210,550 hectares burnt on KI.

"Hives you can replace, but the trees lost - that will take a long time to come back," he said.

"We are also coming into the quieter time of year, so getting bee numbers built up in time for almonds will be hard work."

Mr Kennett also held concerns for KI, which is home to the last pure strain of ligurian bees in the world.

"It's devastating over there. They've lost half their bee population," he said.

"They can't bring bees in. They have to breed up, which takes awhile. Plus they don't have resources right now."

Mr Kennett said with the drought and fire losses, there would be a huge impact on the pollination of crops across a variety of industries.

"The lack of summer rain means all sources of flora will be pretty low, so trying to build these bees up, even on the mainland, is going to be difficult," he said.

"We have been working with government to get more access to resources, including state forests. But I definitely forsee a shortage of Australian honey in the short-term."

The Davis family run the Island Beehive business, based in Kingscote.

They manage up to 1300 hives, that they own and contract.

They lost up to 450 hives personally in the fire, along with the family home and sheep at Gosse.

"But the biggest impact is the vast area of native vegetation we have lost," Peter Davis said.

"It could be up to seven years before those trees start flowering again."

Mr Davis said in his more than 50 years as a CFS member, they had never had a fire impact the farm as much as this one.

"In less than a half an hour, the whole lot went," he said.

"This is the result of an accumulation of 30 years of fuel, plus 12 years since the last fire (2008), which meant it all burnt again.

"CFS and adjacent landowners have not been able to reduce fuel loads and put fires out in whatever means necessary because of wilderness protection.

"Farmers have not been allowed to burn appropriately to protect their properties as it is considered 'clearance'.

"Yet this fire has been a massive example of clearance on the grandest scale this island has ever seen."

Mr Davis said they lost more than 40 tonnes of honey in the fire, as the hives were about to be harvested.

"Even for the remaining 600-700 hives, we are going to struggle to find places to put them because there is less than a third of the vegetation left on the island," he said.

"We have had to buy special feeders to put in the hives to keep the bees strong until the area starts flowering again."

We could sell everything today with the amount of demand there is now. - PETER DAVIS

They have had to restrict sales to ensure they have enough supply for island visitors and their main suppliers.

"We could sell everything today with the amount of demand there is now," he said.

"But we need to take stock after these fires to make sure we have enough for our manufacturing outlets."

The Davis family have started a Go Fund Me page to save the Ligurian Bee: gf.me/u/xauwjp

And have offered an account to help Island Beehive directly: BSB 015600 Acc 492682326

"Any cash donations will go towards saving the Ligurian bees we have left and feeding them to get through the hard times to follow," Island Beehive assistant manager Kylie Hargraves said.

"We are already feeling the loss of tourism on the island so if you are planning a holiday soon please consider visiting Kangaroo Island."

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