The devastating bushfire crisis in Australia has claimed lives, destroyed millions of hectares of national parks, property, homes, and bushland and killed over a billion animals big and small.
A large area of the nation has been affected, including the beautiful area of Kangaroo Island, South Australia. A home to many unique species of wildlife, including one of the world’s purest strains of Ligurian honey bees (originally from Italy).
As told by Casey Briggs and Eugene Boisvert in a recent article for the ABC, the bushfires, which occurred over the Christmas and New Year period on Kangaroo Island, are estimated to have decimated around a quarter, or 1000 of Kangaroo Island’s 4000 beehives.
While the South Australian beekeeping industry has more than 60,000 hives overall, these numbers are a terrible loss to Kangaroo Island and it’s unique bee environment.
Apiary Alliance SA chairman Danny LeFeuvre said the island was a “bee utopia” due to how the bees fed mostly on native flora and fauna, producing honey with a unique taste. He told the ABC, “There’s always something flowering and bees did really well.”
With the extent of flora and fauna destroyed, while the physical beehives may be easy to rebuild, remaining bees will be weak and looking for food sources.
Kangaroo Island Beekeeper Peter Davis lost up to 400 of his 1000 hives. However, even those that have survived now face an uncertain future due to habitat loss and lack of flowering plants/ food sources.
A downturn in honey production will be a likely consequence of these losses. To protect the unique Ligurian strain of bees, more bees cannot be brought onto the island to repopulate the area as a quarantine issue.
What can we do?
One way to help is to buy Australian honey. Hopefully, if consumers see and purchase Kangaroo Island Honey from the shelves, some profits can be driven back to the affected beekeepers.
While media coverage on the fires has so far, mostly focused on the larger animals affected by the fires, small animals and insects have also suffered these devastating losses. Small victims such as insects are intrinsic to the support of their ecosystems and pollination.
Bees are at significant risk of being lost when fires approach because they struggle with extreme heat and will huddle inside of their hives when the temperature rises.
Beekeepers in NSW for example are mounting a campaign for greater access to National Parks to provide their bees with new nectar and pollen sources, having lost their own.
But still, money plays a huge part in protecting and rebuilding, now is the time to make considered choices and buy Kangaroo Island honey if you see it on shelves.
There is also a go fund me for the Kangaroo Island Ligurian bee: www.gofundme.com/f/save-the-ligurian-bee