Logging and bushfires are hampering beekeepers’ ability to meet growing demand for pollination

Beekeepers in Gippsland fear they will not be heard in discussions about forest management and as a result some patches of forest will be ‘no value for decades’.

That’s the concern of Ian Cane, a third generation beekeeper who has been involved in the industry for most of his life.

He said parts of the bush that had been logged and then impacted by the Black Summer bushfires had undergone major structural changes.

He described two different types of structural change, one of which was when the bush that grew back after logging was very different from what came before it.

Standing in a regenerating coupe [area of logged trees] that had burned, Mr Cane said parts of the bush undergo secondary structural change, where the regrowing bush is damaged by fire.

A patch of cut and burnt bush. The forest section on the left shows very dense regrowth.(ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville)

“The regen here was 10 years old and killed by the wildfire because he’s young,” he said.

“What would normally happen in these forests is that epicormic shoots would come out and these trees would grow again and go.”

He said because the fire had been so intense that it had killed all the regrowth here.

“After the fire there was literally just these black sticks left but as a last resort, a survival mechanism, these trees pull out a number of shoots,” he said.

“So now you have a multi-stem forest, so a major structural change.”

Pressure mounts on beekeepers

A patch of bush with a few trees still standing, some of which have started to regrow and some of which are charred and dead.
A cut near Mount Nowa Nowa that has been cut down and now has two years of regrowth with many dead trees still standing.(ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville)

There is a growing demand for beekeepers’ pollination services, but Cane said deteriorating cuts make it more difficult to meet demand.

“If you put fire in this coupe (again), it will take another 40 years, maybe 60 years, to be of any value to our industry.

He said it could take an incredible amount of time for it to ever repair itself to a state where it buds, flowers and seeds.

Good job

However, Mr Cane stressed that he and many beekeepers were not opposed to the logging and timber industries and pointed to a cut he said had been harvested and well managed.

“Certainly, as an industry, we are multi-use, multi-value, but we have to protect those uses in perpetuity. It’s the methodology in which it’s harvested that we have to do well.”

He said the industry has worked with VicForests to develop harvest prescriptions and ensure value for all.

“We’ve always pretty much had a place around the table and as an industry. I think we’ve done very well. But I’m not saying the results match that.

“We worked with VicForests over time and it really got nowhere. We developed harvesting prescriptions with VicForests and to our disappointment, nothing came of it.”

Comments welcome

VicForests said consulting the beekeeping industry was an important part of its planning process in East Gippsland and it welcomed feedback.

“We are also following the Gippsland Forest Apiaries Plan, which adds additional protection to maintaining a viable area of ​​forest trees important to bees,” a spokesperson said.

“VicForests is also assisting the Department of Environment, Lands, Water and Planning with the recovery of forests from the 2019/20 bushfires through the Victorian Government’s reseeding programs for affected areas by consecutive fires and is also involved in bushfire risk management as a member of Forest Fire Management Victoria.”

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