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Honey  - Australia's Liquid Gold

A publication of the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council

May 1999, was the month for Conferences with the NSW Conference held in Bomaderry NSW, the WA Farmers Federation Beekeepers Annual Conference held in Perth WA, the Queensland Beekeepers Association Conference in Gympie QLD and the SA Apiarists Annual Conference in Renmark SA.

Following are reports from some of those conferences.


The WA Farmers Federation Annual Beekeepers Conference held in Armadale on Monday 31 May and Tuesday 1 June 1999, was a great success.  Those in attendance were treated to two days of healthy debate and relevant information presented by a selection of guest speakers.

The 1999 Beekeepers Conference welcomed a new Section President in Stephen Fewster when incumbent President, Ian Baile, stepped down.  Ian now takes up the position of Immediate Past President.  Stephen is joined by Rod Pavy as Senior Vice President and Michael Spurge who was re-elected to Vice President.

The Hon. Cheryl Edwardes MLA, Minister for the Environment addressed beekeepers on the issues of the newly signed Regional Forest Agreement, controlled burns and fires and the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM). 

The news of additional reserves of 45 700 hectares of old growth forest along with continued access to existing apiary sites in conservation areas until the establishment of the new reserves, was warmly welcomed.

The Minister addressed concerns over controlled burns and wildfires, emphasising the necessity of controlled burns in order to minimise the risk of the latter.  She stressed the vital role of volunteers within the department of CALM and thanked those beekeepers who gave up their time to protect not only their livelihood but the lives, businesses and environment of others.

The Minister indicated her intent to meet with the new Executive soon to discuss further issues.

Guest speakers covered issues such as driver fatigue, manual lifting and handling, working in isolation, GST, access and use relating to Crown land, canola and pollination, research on the interaction between honey bees and native bees, development of industry development plans and new apprenticeship training.

The attendance and contribution to the conference by Ray Phillips (FCAAA), Stephen Ware (AHBIC) and Rod Palmer (HBRDC) was greatly appreciated.


The keynote speaker at the NSW Apiarists’ Association Annual State Conference in Bomaderry, Mr Binford Weaver from Texas, told delegates that Australian beekeepers must be ever vigilant to keep varroa out of Australia.

Australia is one of the few countries still free of varroa.  He stated that the mite has the potential to seriously reduce Australia’s returns from honey, not to mention the damage it could do to agriculture generally as there are many vegetable and fruit crops which rely on pollination by bees.  The mite was introduced into the US about 6-8 years ago and has caused tremendous losses in American honey production.  The cost of controlling varroa in the US is so high, it often means the difference between a profitable year and one in which the beekeeper operates at a loss.

We must ensure tight quarantine procedures are adhered to as it is quite common for people to transport honey bees from country to country in their coat or shirt pocket.  The industry must educate all beekeepers, including amateur and hobbyists, about the dangers of such actions.

Margaret Blunden


Western Australia

Stocks – stock holding is critical with most packers.  The April expectations did not eventuate.  Beekeepers in general are carrying no stock.  How deliveries will develop after July is still not known but we would expect some small lots becoming available.

Stockholding by Beekeepers – No honey is held by beekeepers.

Season – We had seen poor honey volumes being received throughout 1999 resulting in below budget expectation.  Overall the year was disappointing for all WA beekeepers.

Future crops – The Spring is showing signs of promise and with the rain we could really see a good season ahead of us (but let us not start counting the eggs yet!!)

Overseas demand – World buyers show a lack of demand, as they are aware of Australia’s poor stock situation and high prices.  Also the Northern Hemisphere crop and slower consumer sales take effect at this time of the year.  As always, European buyers go quiet as they go away on holidays.

Eddy Planken
Wescobee Limited

Capilano Honey Limited

Level of Stock Holding 

QLD/NSW/VIC - Stocks levels are reducing more quickly as we head into winter although some good late autumn and winter production in patches has provided some additional supply in this lean period. Stocks should continue to reduce to low levels over the next 4 months prior to  any major crops in the new season getting under way. All packers appear to have a general shortage of honey particularly for those based in low production areas in 1998/99. 

Estimation of Stockholding by Beekeepers

QLD/ NTHN NSW  - Honey  supply is low in beekeeper hands although many have been producing reasonable crops and delivering promptly. Sources are predominantly Yapunyah, Stringy bark and Mugga Iron bark .Only a few beekeepers are holding carry over stocks.

STHN NSW  - Stock levels have reduced as production has been low with  several selling over quota stocks. Some beekeepers have moved to Mugga I/Bark and Yapunyah which has been producing well.

Vic/SA -  Almost no stocks on hand.. 

Estimation of Future Crops

QLD - Production is expected to be average with a selection of choice honeys. Some beekeepers have started well for good early production from Yapunyah..

NSW - Average or better prospects exist for next season on a range of eucalypts eg Yellow Box. Canola and Salvation Jane are expected to provide a good season opening again.

Vic - Average prospects are shaping up after a tough winter. Bee strength may have an impact on the potential.

SA - A good general budding for next season exists with good general rains recently improving overall prospects to Average or better.

Level of Overseas Buyer Demand

The market is going into the quiet summer period when buying interest is low. Lack of interest exists at US$1250-1300 cfr although some business is done at this level in limited volumes. 

Other origins have reduced although prices appear to have now settled for main origins Argentine and Mexican in the range of US$950 and US1050 cfr respectively. Lower priced origins viz; China, Vietnam are reported at US$650 -700 cfr

Lloyd Smith



Bees appear to much healthier than they were at this time last year.  Most hives are now on spring sites. Southern hives have brood and will be ready for early pollination commitments.

Weather conditions vary greatly in the State.  The Southern areas are still very dry, gorse is beginning to flower and fresh pollen is coming in.  Heath is flowering well.  The Northern area has had in excess of 6” of rain since my last report and, because conditions have been warmer than normal, there is good grass growth and the best setting of clover we have seen for many years.

Honey stocks are low.  Bulk prices for leatherwood have not held up this year.  Prepak prices are being maintained and overseas inquiries are still being made.  Beeswax price offered is very low. 

Domestic consumption is at an all time low.  Is this the result of no generic advertising and media releases at an all time low?

Shirley Stephens – Tasmanian Beekeepers Association

Central West NSW

Mugga ironbark yielded very well in the Central West with hives holding up well.

Spotted gum on the South Coast also is doing very well for the amount of trees that are budded.

The Central West of the state needs good rains to ensure good spring conditions.

Yellow box is mostly well budded with some trees flowering but with the onset of cold weather, most trees will hold back from flowering.

It is good to see honey prices on the rise again if not from all major packers.

Eddie Podmore – Orange

South Australia

Some regions of the state have received follow up rains which will benefit ground floras that had been struggling owing to dry conditions.

Upper – Banksia and Styphilia providing breeding flow only.  Bees are building up nicely for almonds.
Lower – Reasonable prospects for Blue gum and mallee for mid to late spring.  Red gum budded.
West Coast
Upper – Euc. Diversifolia flowering in patches, production dependant on the weather.
Lower – Euc. Diversifolia should go through to spring.  Some Blue gum prospects.
Most bees are doing very little, waiting for almond pollination.
Bees out of the region at present.  Spring prospects dependant on rain.
Good rains auger well for spring.  Good budding on Blue and Red gum.
Lower – Spring prospects – there is good germination of Salvation Jane; Blue gum is well budded but some flowering too soon.
Upper – Good rains, good early germination of Salvation Jane.  A large area of canola is sown in the region.  Blue gum budding patchy.
Kangaroo Island
Cup gum flowering well.  Bees will be strong for canola and mallee in spring.  Blue gum well budded.

Kay Lambert – SA Apiarists Association

Western Australia

This has been a very average season for most beekeepers with some well below average.

Most hives are going into winter in very good condition, with some still producing a small amount of honey on the York gum and Banksia.

Wescobee announced at conference that all honey delivered in June would receive $2.00 per kg.  This motivated a few beekeepers to extract some of the honey they were going to leave in their hives for winter.

Good rains through the Northern Wheatbelt and Goldfields should see the York gum continue flowering and yield better into the spring.  The Goldfields could start to bud now and flower in October and through the summer.  The Jarrah is well budded in nearly all areas and should flower mid November and December.  A good winter should ensure a better season for 1999/2000. 

Stephen Fewster 
WA Farmers Federation – Beekeepers Section


The good news from Victoria is that, for the past six weeks, good soaking rains have ended more than two years of rain deficiency in most regions.  North Eastern Victoria has recorded the heaviest falls, up to 250mm (10 inches) in the foothills.

Effects of the severe 1997-8 drought which impacted significantly on 1998-9 honey production, are now well on the way to being relieved.  If the rains continue during the rest of the winter and spring and depleted sub-soil moisture is fully restored, the promising eucalypt honey production prospects across the state for the 1999-2000 season will be considerably enhanced.

No honey production will occur in Victoria until the spring at the earliest.  Bees generally are wintering well, but the exceptionally mild winter until now has meant that many apiaries have kept breeding, using up valuable stores, with the result that some beekeepers are already feeding sugar to maintain calories through to the spring.

Earliest spring prospects include the possibility of some over-wintered yellow gum, white mallee, canola and paterson’s curse.

Some beekeepers have moved apiaries north into NSW to work black box and napunyah and to the south coast of SW to work spotted gum.  Reports indicate that napunyah and spotted gum have been doing a bot.  Some apiaries are being over-wintered in Western Victoria’s Little Desert, where both yellow gum and banksia have been yielding useful stores.

North Eastern Victoria

The mild autumn/early winter, helped red iron bark and grey box yield enough to set colonies up for adequate winter stores.  Some surplus was extracted, particularly from iron bark.  Honey production prospects for next season look promising across a range of eucalypt species, although autumn production will again have to rely on the short budders.  Best spring prospects include the ground floras such as canola and paterson’s curse, beginning late September/October.  The first heavy snow falls were recorded this week.

Central Victoria

The failure of grey box and the mild autumn following usefulmessmate extractions, left some apiaries without adequate winter stores.  Supplementary feeding of colonies is occurring.  There is a possibility of some yellow gum honey in the spring, but the best eucalypt prospects are yellow box and red gum which are well budded.  Autumn production will depend on how well the short budders perform.  Spring build up prospects at this stage are good and some production from canola and paterson’s curse should occur.


This region has been the most critically rain deficient of the state, but recent falls have improved the outlook for spring build up conditions.  No major honey production is forecast although some patchy budding on a few mallee eucalypt species is reported.  Turnip has been useful for pollen in the irrigation blocks, but is much later elsewhere due to the late break.


Good soaking rains have been experienced, particularly in East Gippsland, which should ensure good build up conditions for the spring in all districts.  Some eucalypt species have budded, but it is too early to make confident forecasts on production.  Some apiarists are working spotted gum country on the south coast of NSW and East Gippsland.

Linton Briggs


Western Australia

Bee tubes are being ordered by melon growers and sent to Kununurra.

Orders for hives in orchards are being confirmed.

Recent rain has damaged canola crops in Northern areas.

John Silcock – Pollination Western Australia


South East Qld. Regional Forest Agreement (SEQ RFA)

A beekeeping project to identify the value of all forests of the SEA RFA was completed with significant input from the QBA.

Duncan McMartin has continued to represent the Association on the Reference Panel and has devoted an enormous amount of time to this commitment.

The QBA has finalised its response to the options paper, the main points being:

support for continued saw log logging of most state forests
support for extension of reserves where necessary at a level of conservation that allows continued beekeeping
reinforcement of an expectation that our agreement with the Department of Environment will be adhered to ensuring areas suitable for beekeeping continue to be available to industry.

The QBA position paper was presented to the Parliamentary Back Bench committee on Wednesday, 2nd June.

It is anticipated the agreement will be concluded in the near future so we will soon know how secure our future is in this area.

Native Title

Changes to the Native Title Act requiring claims to be registered with the Federal Court have reduced mediation activity this year.  The QBA provided information for mediation in Cunnamulla where a district beekeeper, who is a party to the claim, represented industry.

The QBA has a Native Title Policy Document that has had wide distribution among Native Title Representative bodies and responses to date have been positive.

No native title claims that the QBA is a party to on behalf of its members has been finalised.

Whole of Government Policy on Beekeeping

Having established suitable procedures for permitting apiary sites on State Forests and lands administered by Department of Environment the QBA is seeking to have similar procedures adopted for other state controlled lands.

While there is a process for obtaining sites on roads and reserves, they are more complicated than those for state forests and the QBA, with the approval of the Minister for Natural Resources, is endeavouring to have a similar situation to state forests for roads and reserves.

To date we have been unsuccessful.  Sites can be obtained under and “authority to use” at forestry rates but requiring approval by the local authority.

More permanent arrangements can be obtained under a permit to occupy at a higher initial cost and taking an extended period before approval.

The QBA is not satisfied with the current situation and I’m sure will continue to pursue this issue.

Details of the process for obtaining sites on roads and reserves have been published in the QBA Newsletter.

Vegetation Management – Freehold Land

The Qld Government has established a Ministerial Advisory Committee for Vegetation Management on freehold land.

The QBA position encapsulated in a previous submission to the Natural Resource Management Legislation now abandoned, has been provided to Minister Welford.  The QBA’s request for a position on the Ministerial Advisory committee has not been accepted.  However, the QBA expects to be able to address the Committee and have further input as the process develops.  There is an expectation that there may be tree management guidelines for freehold land.

Forestry Roads

Many beekeepers have noticed a lack of maintenance of some roads in Qld State Forests.  As a cost cutting measure some roads not required for regular use or access are to be stabilised to prevent erosion and receive no further maintenance.  The roads can still be used to access apiary sites but the beekeeper will be responsible for maintaining access i.e. removing fallen trees etc.

Don Keith,
QBA Resource Chairman

Note:  Please be advised that Duncan McMartin has been appointed Resource Chairman for the QBA.  Please direct future correspondence to Duncan at Lot 6, Sports Road, BLI BLI    QLD  4560


The Annual General Meeting of the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council Inc. will be held at

Airport Motel and Convention Centre
33 Ardlie Street, Attswood, Melbourne

on Monday 12th July 1999 commencing at 1:30pm

All members and delegates are invited to attend this meeting.


Apis Dorsata Detection in Sydney

The big quarantine news is the find of some giant honey bees (Apis dorsata) in Sydney. No doubt there are many stories floating around about what has actually happened so here are the facts.

A load of computer motherboards was loaded on a Singapore Airlines flight in Penang Malaysia and landed in Sydney on 29th May.  Dead bees were noticed on the consignment at Sydney by staff at the bond store.  There was no comb found.  It would appear that the bees were killed by the compulsory insecticide spraying of the cargo.  The bees were identified as Apis dorsata,  the giant honey bee.

Examination of the bees showed no external mites.  Samples have been sent to Dr Denis Anderson for checking for tracheal mites but it is not expected that they will have mites as dorsata is not known to be a host for tracheal mites.

It would seem that we have again been lucky in having this potential threat averted.  Our quarantine measures are so far holding.

Asian Bee Incursion in Darwin

Still good news on the Darwin front.  No more Asian bees have been found.

I will be going to Darwin for a meeting on 1st July 1999 to discuss what is to happen now that one year had passed since the original find.  Under the Ausvet Plan, if there are no more bees found after 12 months, the Ausvet Plan ceases to be in operation.

Port Surveillance

Except for Western Australia, this has not progressed as quickly as I would have liked.  However, as our main selling season has finished, I am putting more time into this program to try to have everything in place by spring.  We are losing valuable time and funding whilst the hives are not in place.

Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy

I recently spent some time in the Torres Strait with the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) staff.  I also took time to look at the hives at Bamaga and give these the annual requeening and also rebuilding the one hive that had died out since the last visit.

It is pleasing to report that the bait hives that were installed in March 1998 have now attracted some Asian bees (Apis cerana) into them.  These bait hives will be destroyed and replaced.  We are gradually building up our knowledge and this is being added to by the CSIRO work on pheromones by Dr Mike Lacey and the box design work being carried out in Iran Jaya by Dr Denis Anderson.

I will have copies of some of the literature used in the north for quarantine awareness.  I will be bringing them to the AHBIC meeting for anyone who wishes to have a look at them.

A full report on my trip to the Torres Strait has been sent to AHBIC and would be available for anyone who is interested.

Bumble Bees Found in Queensland

AQIS has reported that bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) has been identified from Queensland.  An amateur bee collector collected a sample from Buderim in December, 1997 but it was not until May, 1999 that the sample was submitted for identification.  Buderim is just south of Nambour which is about 100 kilometres north of Brisbane.

The Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QDPI) have been looking in the area but have not found any more.  As it is winter, we may have to wait until spring to determine if there are more in the area.

It is thought to have been a deliberate introduction.  This bumble bee is native to California and is commercially bred for buzz pollination.

There were some mites found on the bees.  They have been identified as Kunzenia sp. (laevic species group) which are basically scavengers in bumble bee nests are are not known to transmit diseases that affect commercial honey bees (Apis mellifera).

The ramifications from this find are not great for our industry.  The only possibility, and it is extremely remote, is that varroa may have come with these bees.  QDPI will be testing hives in the area with acaricide strips.  I would expect a nil result but we will never know unless we look.  The environment may be the only area where there could be any significant effect but the environment movement, I think, will not take much action.

This bumble bee is not the same as that in Tasmania and will not cross with that species.

Trevor Weatherhead

AHBIC thanks the following Voluntary Contributors:

Australian Bee Exporters
Capilano Honey
Chiltern Honey
D. Clouten
Coopers Fine Foods
Dewar Apiaries
HL & HM Hoskinson
Jackel & Son
C. Mills
J. Picker
Swan Settlers
Wescobee Ltd.

To maximise the efficient use of industry resources and funds to ensure the long term economic
viability, security and prosperity of the Australian HoneyBee Industry in Australia

Would all readers please note the new address for the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council Inc.

We are now situated at:-

Level 12, 52 Phillip Street, Sydney    NSW    2000
PO Box R838, Royal Exchange  NSW  1225

Telephone:  02 9247 1180
Facsimile:  02 9247 1192
Email: ahbic@honeybee.org.au
Please feel free to pay us a visit when you are in the area.

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