Australia’s burgeoning almond industry appears to be running short on bees. Sound familiar? As noted in an article on the Australian Broadcast Commission’s (ABC) website, this will become “a major challenge” as more trees come into production.
“I think from 2016 to 2018 we’ve seen 12,000 additional hectares (29,600 acres) added to the industry acreage,” said Ross Skinner, CEO of the Almond Board of Australia (ABA). “The 12,000 hectares that have already gone into the ground will need approximately 70,000 additional hives, so going forward the industry is certainly seeing a need for additional hives to be available.”
ABA has been intensively working with the country’s honey bee industry, he added, to provide “additional resources so that the beekeepers can increase the number of hives that are available in Australia.”
Demand for hives is being felt by both commercial and amateur beekeepers. In what seems like a mirror image of bee supply issues in the U.S., Australian beekeepers have been dealing with uncontrollable factors like the weather. Low rainfall, for one thing, has reduced forage.
As one beekeeper noted in the article, “There is a lot of pressure on existing commercial beekeepers to build their business and get more hives up and running, but that comes with a lot of issues where we need government support. We need access to sites to forage because it’s good when your bees are on the almonds but, in between each almond pollination period, you need somewhere to put your bees.”
One push is for access to national parks and other areas that could sustain the increased number of colonies that almond growers want. Many beekeepers have resorted to feeding bees pollen supplements and sugar syrup to hold them during lean stretches.
“It is just really challenging because bee pollination for the almonds falls in winter, where naturally your bee colonies are at their weakest,” a beekeeper noted. “So, there is that pressure to make sure that your bee hives are really strong to meet the needs of pollinating the almonds.”