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Honey  - Australia's Liquid Gold

A publication of the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council


John Silcock, President of the Pollination Association of Western Australia, presided over its Fifth Annual General Meeting and conference held at Middle Swan on Monday 19th July 1999 with some thirty beekeepers in attendance including three representatives from Agriculture Western Australia.

This year’s topic, “Looking Ahead – Pollination Today and Tomorrow” was selected because the Committee felt an opportunity should be given for beekeeper/pollinators to discuss the past, present and future potential of this aspect of their industry.

State Apiculturalist Lee Allan officially opened proceedings outlining the progress so far made in the pollination sector and gave due recognition to safeguards which have been put in place in the PAWA’s two Codes of Practice which include sections on minimising the spread of and control of diseases. Lee quoted, that since 1993/4 the number of beekeepers involved in pollination has increased from 32 to 68 using 1,154 hives in 1993/4 to 4,900 hives today which equates to about $245,000 added income to the industry.

President John Silcock reported on Field Days which had been attended:  PAWA’s participation in discussions to changing the Beekeeping Act:  the establishment of a beekeeping consultative committee with Agriculture WA:  and his attendance as the pollination delegate at AHBIC meetings.  John also discussed improvements to the bee tubes.  Other speakers brought us up to date with AHBIC activities and successful pollination work being done in the Carnarvon area.

Rob Manning commented on the increased demand for pollination services in the far north of the State and possibility of supplying bees to meet an interstate demand.  Members were strongly reminded that growers in this State are now demanding good quality stock and know what they expect to get for their money.

A Grower’s Guide Booklet has been produced by PAWA for members to leave with prospective clients after their initial contact.

Conference Outcome

The demand for well managed honey bee colonies for pollination is now well recognised throughout Western Australia and a bright future is emerging for beekeepers who are prepared to redirect hive management techniques to tailor made requirements to meet the increasing demands of crop growers who now realise they need to pay top money for first grade service.

The elections returned John Silcock as President with new member Phil Sammut as Vice President.  John Smith remains as Secretary/Treasurer supported by a working committee.  Membership numbers continue to remain healthy as in past years.

John Smith      John Silcock
Hon.Secretary      President


At the Annual General Meeting a motion was passed that AHBIC should approach the Federal Government to have the honey research levy extended to include a levy on commercial queen bee sales.  The levy should be set at 4 cents per queen bee with a ceiling set at 7.5 cents. 

The benefit of the additional levies money would be to increase the industry’s gross value of production (GVP) by an additional two million which would enable additional funds from government on the ‘dollar for dollar’ cost sharing on research and development.

Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be added to the sale price of queen bees, queen cells and nuc hives from July, 2000.  Beekeepers who register for GST will be able to claim the GST back from the government.

Member queen bee breeders in New South Wales and Queensland are reporting they are experiencing good breeding conditions this spring.

Col Wilson


Overseas Buyers – Demand

Europe is in a quiet buying period at present due to summer vacation time. This situation is expected to remain so until September/October when buyers will again be interested to cover their future needs. Crop forecast - Argentina & Australia will be known, Crops from USA/Canada and East Europe will be well understood then as well as a general exchange of supply/demand via exporters/importers attending Apimondia. Buying activity is expected to low until later in September unless cheap offers are made.

Recent prices mentioned were:-

Argentina  - US$970 -1050 cfr - Still carrying surplus stocks 
Mexico    - US$1000 -1100cfr - Sold out until next season 
China       - US$700 - and lower - Lack of buying from Germany due to quality 
Europe    - US$1050cfr - Crop reports are variable - Spain crop has been below average
Uruguay   - US$1020 cfr - Stock held waiting for improved prices
Cuba      - US$1100 cfr - Better crop prospects this season due better weather
Australia  - US$1300 cfr - Limited sales at this level due lack of supply

Generally we could say the market is at a steady period – few offers/little demand - awaiting news of Northern hemisphere crops, new prospects. Prices are well down on 12 months ago and few signs of a firming market exist. Stronger Euro currencies may help as their recent weakness in currency values has increased their import costs.

USA demand - based on their crop 1999, is probably the key to a future price trend or increase in buying interest.

Lloyd Smith

WA Packer Report

Stocks – Stock holding remains critical with most WA packers.  The June/July expectations were less than expected despite high prices offered in the market place.  Spring deliveries are expected to be average and we would expect deliveries to become available from now on.

Stockholding by Beekeepers – No honey is held by beekeepers.

Season – We saw honey volumes received throughout 1998/9 as better than expected but less than budgeted.  Overall the year was disappointing for all WA beekeepers from a production point of view but the high prices assisted many.

Future Crops – The spring is showing signs of promise and we could see a good season ahead of us.  Jarrah is expected to flow and the Redgum is due to give us a big crop.

Overseas Demand – world buyers sho no demand.  They are aware of Australia’s poor stock situation and high prices compared to the very low world market.  Some exporters have bowed to pressure and offered stock for forward sale at reduced prices.

Eddy Planken


New South Wales

Conditions were starting to look very dry early in August but in the last ten days good rains have fallen in the Central and southern parts of the State.  This will make for a good spring with canola and then paterson’s curselooking towards a good crop.

Yellow box in the Central West has been flowering early, maybe 20%, but with very cold weather of later the flowering has slowed down or stopped.

Mugga ironbark has started to yield and most bees wich are on mugga have come through winter very well.

Green mallee is also well budded and a good crop should be produced.

Stock Report – NSW

Not many beekeepers are holding honey but packers should have enough to see them through to the early spring production.

Eddie Podmore

South Australia

Most regions of the state need rain.

South EastUpper – Most bees are on pollination of almonds, the few that aren’t are working stony mallee (Euc.diversifolia) with a reasonable yield on good days.  There are prospects for mallee, canola and some patches of blue gum that did not flower early.  (Banksia build up of bees this winter was patchy)
West CoastUpper – Bees being moved onto canola.
Lower – Euc.diversifolia flowering.  The mild weather has created a ‘hake’ spring with feral hives swarming already.  Ground floras are flowering.  There has been a high mortality of field bees during the wintering of bees, likely to be related to the harsh summer/autumn conditions.  Blue gum prospects look good.
RiverlandApiarists are starting to move hives off almonds, the pollination having gone well.  Most bees will be going to canola or stony mallee.  Frosts affected turnip and onion weed.  Rain needed badly.
NorthernLower – Bees just starting to breed.  There is some early canola flowering, ground floras need more rain to persist, the blue gum is flowering too early and dropping flowers, possibly from conditions that are too cold. Frosts wiped out winter ground floras on wintering sites on the plains.  Prospects:- Jane should be okay is more rain occurs.
Upper – further rain is required for spring ground floras which apiarists will be reliant on as it is an off year for blue gum.


North EastAfter a very dry July and heavy frosts through to early August, beekeepers were again beginning to worry about the level of soil moisture coming into the spring and the likely adverse effects this would have on spring/early summer crops.  Some good rains have just fallen (mid August) – up to 150 mm in the foothills, relieving some concern, although rains will need to continue up to and through the spring to get the best out of what looks to be a promising season.  First production is unlikely before the end of September.  Autumn production will depend on the short budders and it will be the end of November before this potential can be confidently forecast.

GippslandWhile a number of eucalypt species are budded and are prospects for a reasonable season of honey production the region, particularly to the east, is very dry.  After such a good autumn break, it is disappointing to see prospects for the spring build up on ground flora depreciate.  Substantial rain will need to soon fall to rescue the situation.  Coastal prospects are only fairly modest.  Clover production during the summer will depend on future rainfall and cannot be confidently forecast at this time.  A little red iron bark has been yielding and white box is fairly well budded and now flowering with quite a number of beekeepers showing interest.

Central VictoriaGood eucalypt prospects are evident at least until the autumn, particularly for river red gum and yellow box.  Some experienced beekeepers are beginning to show interest in grey box for the autumn, predicting that it will bud in November.  A major worry tis that the region, after a mild winter and a reasonable autumn break, remains rain deficient which may affect spring build up prospects.  Beekeepers are hopeful that canola and patersons curse will assist build up and provide some early production particularly in the NSW Riverina, but there is an uncertainty because of the lack of rainfall.  A fair bit of overwintered yellow gum is flowering and with the weather warming up, may produce a modest crop for some beekeepers.

Western VictoriaRed gum is the best prospect for summer honey production, with an outstanding budding that could flower for up to two months in December/January. Scent bark is also budded.  Late yellow gum is a current prospect.  The region desperately needs good soaking rain.
MalleeAlmond pollination is now drawing to a close with many thousands of hives servicing Riverland orchards, extending into South Australia.  Some rough weather including some rain shortened the flowering.  Bees will soon begin to move out to other districts to work other spring prospects.  Broadacre herbicide weed control programmes in the wheat country have greatly depreciated the winter and early spring build up potential in this region, except throughout the irrigation areas.  Red gum is budded and there are some limited mallee eucalypt prospects.  Some patchy yields of black box have been reported.  The area remains generally very dry.

Linton Briggs


Honey producers are for the most part pulling away from the Channel country following a disappointingly short Yapunyah season.  For some more fortunate honey producers the crop will continue a little longer.

Hives are being moved back onto breeding conditions such as canola and wild turnip.  Colonies are usually fairly slow to come away after working Yapunyah but this year
Reports are positive with some colonies storing pollen in the third super.  Honey yield has been slow to date.

Queensland in general has few prospects through to December, a key indicator month will be October when summer prospects will become clearer.

The main activity over the new few months will be maintaining colony strength and requeening hives.

Honeyflows that may be  helpful as the season progresses are coolibah, purple top, carpet weed, patches of grey ironbark, brush box and yellow stringybark.  Blue gum has been flowering by reports indicate little in the way of nectar yields.

Weeds and short budding species will be closely watched this season.

Few honey producers are carrying stocks of honey.

Bill Winner


Heavy rain has fallen again over the North and North Western region of the State after quite a mild winter period with just two or three snowfalls.

Pasture growth had been good which, hopefully, will ensure a good clover year.

The Southern area has not fared as well.  Bees will require feeding during the next few months.  White heath and gorse are flowering well and the wattle is beginning.

Many pollination opportunities are being presented and a meeting has been called for beekeepers to assess this situation.

Leatherwood honey is in critical supply after the disastrous storm we experienced this year.

Sales for 1999 began slowly but the latter half of the year has seen great improvement with many forward sales for next season’s crop of leatherwood being committed to the year 2000.

Shirley Stephens

Western Australia

Beekeepers’ hives have come through the winter in very good condition.  All hives are now on spring sites, either coastal or some still on york gum.  The york gum is producing very well, with beekeepers extracting already.  On the coast, the trificata is flowering, the bees are breeding well and beginning to store honey.  The pattersons curse is just starting to flower in the northern wheatbelt.  The canola is also flowering well but, as yet, very few reports on bees being used for pollination.

Prospects look good for this season with good weather.  The spring honey flow should be above average.  Some trees are budded in the goldfields and will be worth another look a bit closer to flowering.

The jarrah is budded well in nearly all areas.  On the sandplain there is a chance of banksia over the summer, and the coastal blackbutt is budding.  The red gum also looks very healthy and should flower in some areas next year.


Queen Bees From Italy

Several queen bee breeders, including myself, received an email from a queen breeder in Italy offering to sell us queen bees.  Immediately I received this email, I sent a copy to Dr David Banks at AQIS asking him to have the Veterinary Counsellor in Brussels contact this person to let them know about our protocol for sending queen bees to Australia.

David did this but also sent an email directly to the queen bee breeder concerned pointing out our protocols and asking if any had already been sent.  David received a reply to indicate that none had been sent. Our thanks to David for his swift action.

Members may be wondering why I took such quick action.  You may recall a few years ago when an advertisement appeared in the ABK from a queen breeder in Germany offering his queens for sale.  At the time, there was no indication given to the German, nor the Australians who may have thought of importing, on what was the correct protocol.

A short time later, some queen bees were detected in the mail at Sydney and a subsequent court trial resulted in an Australian beekeeper being fined for this illegal importation.  I did not want a repeat of this unfortunate incident.

New Zealand is Serious About Quarantine

When I received my copy of the June 1999 issue of Bee Culture, there was a very interesting news quote.  It is as follows:-

“Illegal Imports into NZ

Two men were jailed in New Zealand after they threatened the country’s status as free of European foulbrood disease by importing 500 kilograms of Chinese bee pollen.

Warren James Stewart, former managing director of Megavitamin Laboratories (NZ) Ltd and his son, Evan Kerry Stewart, a director and operations manager of the company, claimed the Chinese bee pollen was corn flour.

District Court Judge Christopher Somerville said by putting their own interests first, the pair could have destroyed New Zealand’s position as one of the few countries in the world not afflicted with European foulbrood disease.

There was no sign this had happened, but the court was told if the disease had taken hold all bees would have to be treated with antibiotics, ending the chemical free advantage New Zealand has over its trading partners.

‘These dependants have placed their own personal gain, or the gain of the company they controlled, above the national interests,’ Somerville said.  ‘The country cannot afford one lapse.  Second chances cannot be afforded.  A deterrent sentence is required.’

Warren Stewart was jailed for 20 months and Evan Stewart for 15 months.

         Alan Harmon”

It is great to see such action in New Zealand.  One can only hope that the same will apply in Australia if any prosecutions are ever undertaken.  With this sort of deterrent, we may have not got chalkbrood.

Torres Strait

AHBIC has been advised that the Torres Shire Council has agreed to pass by-laws to ban the keeping of bees of the genus Apis in their shire.  There are presently two hives on Prince of Wales Island which will be allowed to stay but they will not be alloed to be shifted to any other island.  Once this by-law has been passed, AHBIC will approach the Island Co-ordinating Council to have the same by-laws put in place in the other Councils in Torres Strait.

This is a very gratifying result for the industry as it is something that we have been trying to achieve for about the last ten years.  Our thanks go to many people who have helped us achieve this result.

Live Bee Exports to the USA

In conversation with Dr David Banks from AQIS, he advised me that the American Embassy in Canberra had been in contact with AQIS on this issue.  AQIS has advised that they are not happy with the progress of our application and have asked for a timetable for consideration of our request to be allowed to export live bees to the USA.

Bumble Bees

I have been in contact with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and there have been no finds of bumble bees in the Buderim area to date.  With spring coming soon, this will be the time when it should be found if it is in the area.

Port Surveillance

It is now time that this programme should be ready to proceed in spring.  I will be contacting those states that do not have the programme in place to find out where they are at.  We have lost too much time on this and need to get it in place.

Trevor Weatherhead


Western Australia

North of the State

Cold weather in Derby nad Broome has caused a delay in flowering of the melon crop so that tubes are only now being sent up from the south of the State.  The Kununurra season seems to be normal and a variety of pollination units have been delivered. I.e. nug’s, hives and tubes.

South West

Again unusual seasonal conditions, with higher than normal temperatures and falls of rain have extended the flowering period for orchards causing a reduction in the effect of chemical thinning.  There has been an expressed interest in using bees for pollination in the district in the coming season.

John Silcock

AHBIC wishes to thank all contributors for their input to  HONEY NEWS

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