Weather takes sting out of honey industry

Swan Valley beekeeper Rupert Phillips.
Swan Valley beekeeper Rupert Phillips.

Weather conditions, including late winter rain and extreme summer temperatures, have dramatically impacted honey production in the Swan Valley and Gingin.

The honey shortage has hit a national level according to the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, which says honey is its scarcest in 10 years.

The House of Honey’s Mr Phillips said he travelled 5000km from Eneabba to Walpole each month to collect honey, but faced a lot of disappointment this year.

‘The heavy rain in late spring kept a lot of the bees in instead of going out and foraging,’ he said.

‘A lot of the trees that were supposed to flower in spring haven’t yet – one tree species might be fine in one area but in another area it might not be flowering, so there are lots of factors.’

‘In particular, the north coast has yielded virtually nothing compared to regular years.’

Mr Phillips said the challenging weather conditions were not the only factor hampering the honey industry.

‘Mining, Dieback and access to virgin bush is always being eroded, so there are other things that hold us back,’ he said.

‘It’s also hard to find labour. You’re out in the heat of the day and some of the hives are 20 to 30kg which you need to lift about 100 times a day.’

Australian Honey Bee Industry Council executive director Trevor Weatherhead said the conditions would make it hard for some companies to meet contracts with supermarkets and supply their full range of products.

‘It is a dire time for the honey industry with both apiarists and honey packers bracing themselves for the next 12 months,’ he said.

‘We have witnessed a ‘perfect storm’ of negative weather conditions. This will no doubt make it very hard for some companies to meet contracts with supermarkets and supply their full range of products.’

West Coast Honey in Gingin supplies Capilano Honey in Bayswater, but this year the company will supply only half of its usual amount.

Co-owner Stephen Fewster said good yields later in November this year could make up for this year’s 50 per cent drop in production.

‘Jarrah and white gum are starting to bud now so it’s a good sign that we will get honey from those trees later this year,’ he said.

Jarrah only flowers every second year, making it a prized yield.