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The bees are back

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If you think you’ve had a rough couple of years, spare a thought for beekeeper and honey producer Lindsay Callaway of Warral Maldon. Hard on the heels of the Covid lockdowns came the discovery in NSW of the varroa mite in June last year.

To prevent the spread of this highly destructive mite, any hives located to the north of the Murray River were banned from crossing into Victoria. At the time, Lindsay’s hives were in an area near Deniliquin on the Edwards River. This meant that his bees were stranded for seven months in NSW, and he missed out on the lucrative pollinating season with Victoria’s crops.

Then came the floods and an unseasonal spell of cool weather. It has not been a happy time for bees! They need nectar and pollen all year round, which means that hives need to be constantly shifted to follow the honey flow.

The good news is that when the Times spoke to Lindsay last week, his hives were now back in Victoria after two days of hard work.

“The move was quick, short and sharp, and I’m so relieved the hives are back,” Lindsay said.

“It’ll be ironbark and grey box for the bees now, and it’s important to get them into good shape. From now until May makes a big difference in beekeeping. We need to build up momentum to get the bees through winter and ready for the almond blossom in August.”

Some concerted lobbying from beekeepers took place before the border was finally opened last week. Lindsay is a member of the Victorian Apiarists Association,  and his story was picked up last week by The Age and also reported on ABC News

According to Lindsay, the varroa mite crisis created a huge challenge for his business. “It was highly stressful,” he said. “It was Covid times ten. It really made my business untenable for a while. But so far, 2023 is looking very bullish. It’ll be business as usual.”

Warral Maldon is a large operation, and there are now around 3,500 hives that need constant tending. Over 150 tonnes of honey and 2,000kg of beeswax are produced each year at the Warral Maldon factory in Boundary Road. Much of Warral’s output is destined for the wholesale market, but there is a retail shop on the premises that sells honey, honeycomb and beeswax products.    

Lindsay is the fifth generation of his family to work in the honey industry. And he loves his bees. “Did you know that a third of what we eat starts with a bee hive?” he said. “Five years ago, 40 to 50 billion dollars was directly attributed to bee pollination in the agriculture sector in Australia. That figure would be much higher now. Bees have a vital part to play in our economy and in feeding the world.”

Tarrangower Times 3 February 2023

This article appeared in the Tarrangower Times, 3 February 2023.

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