Australia– One of the Northern Territory’s few remaining beekeepers says it has become too hard to run a sustainable honey business in the Top End and is blaming fires.
Tas Festing owns Humpty Doo Apiaries, which produces honey and also provides pollination services for crops in Darwin’s rural area.
Mr Festing said he planned to move his operation to Queensland because he was frustrated with bushfires and controlled burns in the Top End, which he believed were stopping native trees from flowering regularly.
“It’s just getting too hard to do it here in the Top End,” he said.
“I just can’t keep going. There’s just no food for them up here and over the last five years it’s just been so hard to keep them alive.
“The native trees don’t seem to flower anymore because of the amount of burning that’s going on.
“Some of the trees won’t flower for between five and seven years after a burn.”
Mr Festing is not the only Northern Territory beekeeper struggling to find enough native flowers for his bees.
Further south, Katherine-based beekeeper Nathan Woods told ABC Rural last year that fires were having a “massive impact” on his income.
“We’re definitely travelling further and further [to find unburnt country], there’s a lot of driving involved to find something to put your bees on,” he said.
“If you haven’t got flowering trees to put your bees on, it has a massive impact on your income.”
Mr Festing said his honey production had declined dramatically in recent years.
“You look at a hive like this and it should be chock-a-block full of honey,” he said.
“Ten years ago I was getting more honey with 40 hives then I am with 250 now.”
Mr Festing said his bees did a lot of pollination work for farmers and he’s worried his departure would affect local horticultural industries.
“When I pack up and go I don’t know what [local farmers] are going to do,” he said.
“They’ll probably have to hang up their boots and close their farms because you need bees for [pollinating] cucurbits.
“There are so many little farms and I don’t know what they are going to do because there are no other beekeepers around.”
Mr Festing plans to follow in the steps of other Northern Territory apiarists and move to Queensland where he said there were stronger regulations governing native bush burning.
“I love the beekeeping and I’ve spent a lot of money,” he said.
“But I may as well just shut it down and try it somewhere else when I get there.”