Honey hopes dry up

honeycomb close up detail honey bee

Below average rainfall in Tasmania’s West Coast region has significantly impacted leatherwood honey yields for many producers this season. Beekeepers say honey quality has also been affected after many leatherwood trees in the state’s western rainforests failed to flower due to the dry conditions.

Tasmanian Beekeepers Association president Lindsay Bourke said it had been a tough season for the state’s honey producers. “It’s been up and down for beekeepers, it’s not like a normal year,” he said. “We haven’t got as much as a normal year, there just hasn’t been the leatherwood we’d normally see.”

Because the leatherwood trees did not flower as normal, Mr Bourke said this had also impacted on the honey quality.

“There’s other things mixed in with it although some would have got the tail end of the manuka so it still should be OK,” he said. “But not like our normal pure leatherwood.”

Mr Bourke said instead of the usual three to four leatherwood honey takes this season they had had just two. “I’ve never seen it as dry as it is this year,” he said. “Leatherwood is a shallowrooted tree, so they need a huge amount of water and if it’s too dry they just won’t flower.”

Ewan Stephens from R Stephens Honey at Mole Creek said it had been a particularly difficult season at their honey sites in the southern parts of the West Coast.

Mr Stephens said it was one of the driest years he had seen in the West Coast forests and the weather had severely impacted the leatherwood flowering. “The honey we got hasn’t been very good quality,” he said.

“This is the third year we’ve had of easterly weather and it’s just been too dry on the West Coast. It’s hit it pretty hard this year and I’d say 80 per cent of the leatherwood trees didn’t even flower.”

Mr Stephens said they would most likely use the lower-quality honey to feed their bees. In a good season, Mr Bourke said leatherwood trees have the unique ability to produce extra nectar if they get good rains during flowering.

Due to difficult market conditions and competition from a flood of imported honey, Mr Bourke said many of the state’s main honey producers had leatherwood stock on hand.

“There’s lot of product available, so we’re OK that way but we still like to get a good result for the year, because we work hard at it and there are a lot of costs involved,” he said.