BUSY BEES: John Craig, owner of Carramar Apiaries, in Warwick said grey box eucalyptus trees had flowered, boosting honey production.
BUSY BEES: John Craig, owner of Carramar Apiaries, in Warwick said grey box eucalyptus trees had flowered, boosting honey production. SONJA KOREMANS

Bees back to busy work

QUEENSLAND'S hottest temperatures on record continued to sting bee keepers but the adverse weather has been bitter-sweet for a Southern Downs producer.

A summer of heatwaves has hit prime honey-producing areas by reducing nectar supplies from trees and ground cover.

Apiculturist John Craig, owner of Carramar Apiaries, said hot conditions this year have reduced nectar in native trees around Warwick, which has significantly cut food sources for bees.

"We had a bumper spring, with probably the best rainfall we have ever had, and I thought that it was going to be a record honey season but in January we didn't have any honey as it was so dry and hot,” Mr Craig said.

High temperatures and low rainfall have stressed local bee populations and in extreme cases caused beeswax in honeycombs to melt inside the hive. The bees are then forced to fan their wings to keep the hive cool, leaving them with no time to collect nectar.

Things seemed dire for Mr Craig and his bees as temperatures continued to soar but February brought an unexpected godsend, sending bees into overdrive.

"Just as I was lamenting how bad the season was, all the grey box eucalyptus trees growing around the area came into bud and were thick with flowers this year,” Mr Craig said.

"Within a week there was so much flowering that the bees went back into full production and suddenly I was overloaded with honey.”

Mr Craig said grey box honey was medium to dark amber in colour, of medium density and reveals an excellent aromatic.

"It's a beautiful honey and very popular with shoppers,” he said.

The grey box usually flowers from February to May, sometimes until June, so Mr Craig expects a solid season of three-tonne honey production from his hives this year.

"I have another 40 boxes to extract in the next week so there's heaps of honey and I can't complain,” he said.

"If we get good rain through autumn it will be even better.”



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