Celebrating World Bee Day this year has taken on a whole new significance to the entire community, in light of the devastating, combined impact of years of drought and recent bushfires, says Fay Steward, president of the Bega Valley Beekeepers Association.
Thousands of hectares of native forest essential to the survival of native wildlife and the beekeeping industry have been lost, and according to the NSW Apiarist Association, this could lower honey production in NSW by about 30 per cent for at least the next 10 years.
Many hives were destroyed by fire in our region, and this, combined with the resulting loss of forested areas, which normally provide good nectar and pollen sources, is a major concern to the beekeeping industry and primary industry producers, who rely on bees for pollination.
"Many of our members spent all summer trying to keep hives alive because of the conditions, the smoke, ash and lack of pollen sources," Ms Steward said.
They pollinate crops, and are thought to be responsible for one in three of every spoonfuls of food we eat. Even more important is the essential role bees play in balancing our ecosystems; and it is alarming that bee species are declining world-wide.Fay Steward, president Bega Valley Beekeepers Association
"The economic impact may be substantial with estimates of around $36 million being contributed annually to the NSW economy through the production of honey and hive related products.
"It's a reminder of the importance of bees in making life possible for humans. They pollinate crops, and are thought to be responsible for one in three of every spoonfuls of food we eat. Even more important is the essential role bees play in balancing our ecosystems; and it is alarming that bee species are declining world-wide," Ms Steward said.
"The expression 'think globally - act locally' has never been more important, and the Bega Valley Beekeepers Association has encouraged members to dig another bee loving plant into the garden, or give one as a gift on Wednesday, May 20, which is the United Nations designated World Bee Day," Ms Steward said.
Bega High School, which established an apiary two years ago, is doing just that. Their aim is to encourage awareness of the importance of pollinators, such as bees, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development. The school also boasts a magnificent bee themed mural painted by students when the apiary was established.
Ms Steward said people wishing to get started in beekeeping are welcome to contact the club to find out how they can get started. "Backyard beekeeping is becoming increasingly more popular worldwide, so it's really important that people learn how they can manage their hives for good health, and in a way that doesn't cause concern to their neighbours and visitors" she said.
For more information about the club contact the secretary at email@example.com.