Valuable queen bees are bundled up in travel cages with bee candy for the ride and attendants to feed them.
But delays in Australia Post’s delivery service have seen queens make their way to their scruffy, weak – and even dead destinations.
“It’s devastating,” said Australian Queen Bee Breeders’ Association president Richard Sims. âIt seems like it’s really come to a head now. In Victoria in particular, it’s horrible and it’s so randomâ¦ one package can arrive and the next just goes missing. And the follow-up is also random. “
Bees are essential to Australia’s agricultural sector. Almonds, avocados, blueberries and a range of other crops all depend on beehives for pollination. While native bees do their part, European honey bees make up the bulk of Australia’s bee population and are responsible for most agricultural work.
Previously, The Sims were happy to send queens all over Australia, but he stopped sending them for now, unless it was a local delivery.
Australia Post has faced significant arrears related to Covid. It says closures have led to more online deliveries, as hundreds of employees are forced to self-isolate every day, and fewer passenger flights mean reduced air cargo capacity.
âSince the bees are prepared and packaged in a specific way, they can be easily identified by our people and are placed at the front of the queue,â said a spokesperson.
Sims says time is of the essence when it comes to queen bees.
âAfter a while a queen’s egg laying stopsâ¦ without enough eggs the hives decrease,â Sims said. “It can take 30 days if they have to make their own queen.”
This is where queen breeders come in. âWe wrap them in little cagesâ¦ we put a capful of candy (like caramel) in them. The queen cannot feed herself but she has minions who eat the candies and give them to the queen.
On her arrival, the queen is presented to the hive. But if it does not show up, the hive wobbles and becomes susceptible to parasites.
Sims is flabbergasted that in some cases a queen has survived the trip from the Netherlands, but is then endangered with trips from major cities in Australia taking up to 10 days.
dutch bees are resistant to a mite which threatens bee populations, and are imported to strengthen the gene pool in Australia.
And Sims says that while he is optimistic about the future of the industry, they still struggle to weather bushfires and droughts.
However, bees are only part of the bee equation in Australia. There are around 2,000 native bee species, which could be threatened by European intruders.
Entomologist Katja Hogendoorn, from the University of Adelaide, says bees are the most common bees Australians see, are on the increase, and “there is starting to be reasonable evidence that they are displace native bees “.
She says bees are semi-domesticated and aren’t the ones that go extinct in the most dreaded the colony collapses.
According to Hogendoorn, the full picture of Australian bees has yet to be revealed, leaving many confused. Meanwhile, she is concerned that the beekeeping industry is using bee concerns to support its own industry.
âBees are really important for crop pollination and we need them and we have to treat them well,â she said. “But they come at the expense of the native bees that are in urban areas.”
His advice to people is not to keep bees in urban areas, but rather to buy honey from farmers’ markets.
In the Netherlands, in addition to having mite resistant bees, the Dutch treat bees on the roofs of bus stops covered with native plants, bee hotels and a “honey highway”, with wildflowers planted along highways and train tracks – treating them like royalty.