Honey bees’ future at risk
HONEY producers across the region are facing their biggest battle which, if not overcome, could see the industry collapse in what some beekeepers believe could be as little as four years.
The events which have led to the devastation of Australian bees include a foreign beetle infestation, climate change and a colony collapse disorder in which entire hives are abandoned.
Victor Metcalf, of Stokers Siding, near Murwillumbah, is a second-generation farmer and has been producing bulk honey on the Tweed all his life.
"Production has been very poor last year and this year," Mr Metcalf said.
"Unless the government steps in there will be no honey produced at all in four years."
His honey production began to dwindle in 2010, and he blames the decline on a feral beetle, originally from South Africa, which lays its eggs in the hives.
When the eggs hatch into maggots they feast on nectar and produce a slime which then releases them into the environment to grow into beetles.
"It's unbelievable. Once I walked out into the field and I saw that black slime oozing out of a box, and I just started to cry," Mr Metcalf said.
Mr Metcalf says 'disappearing disease', a well-documented phenomenon, is also wreaking havoc on honey production.
"Pesticide sprays used locally on macadamias, mobile phone radiation and powerlines destroy the bees' sonar and they don't come back to their hives," he said.
He said climate change had also reduced production, because worker bees don't fly in extreme temperatures.
The environmental impacts of a dwindling production and deaths of the Australian honey bee will be devastating to the entire ecosystem, Mr Metcalf said.