Beekeepers are going to great lengths to ensure that the almond pollination season in north-west Victoria is a blooming success this year.

Key points:

  • Bees are needed to carry pollen from flower to flower on almond trees because almonds are not wind-pollinated like some other crops
  • A Tumut beekeeper has rescued 1,200 hives from boggy ground at Trundle using a helicopter
  • Pollination coordinators are also battling with COVID-19 border restrictions

More than 277,000 hives are being transported to the region from across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

It’s the largest movement of livestock in Australia. 

But Tumut beekeeper John Casey needed help from above to rescue 1,200 hives that were stuck north of Condobolin because the road was too wet to access them.

In a rare move, the hives were moved by helicopter at a cost of $1,600 per hour, before being loaded onto trucks and transported to Boundary Bend.

A helicopter hovers above three men who have attached a rope to a bee hive, which is being moved to dry ground

A team of people and a helicopter was used to move John Casey’s 1,200 beehives to dry ground.(

ABC Rural: Hugh Hogan

)

“I’ve never seen it done,” he said.

“It would be cheaper than doing a diff or gearbox on a truck. I think anyway.

A man wearing a bee suit stands in front of some of his hives

Tumut beekeeper John Casey needed a helicopter to rescue 1,200 hives that were stuck on wet ground at Trundle.(

ABC Rural: Hugh Hogan

)

“We’re going to keep getting rain. It’s supposed to rain more next month, but we need to get them out for the almond pollination,” he said.

Bees go to work

Merbein almond grower Neale Bennett said the hives would be based at his property for six weeks before they were loaded back onto trucks for the trip home.

“We need the bees. Almonds aren’t wind-pollinated like some other crops. We need the bees to carry that pollen from flower to flower,” he said.

A man dressed in a jacket stands in front of blossoming almond trees

Merbein almond grower Neale Bennett will have bees on his orchard for about six weeks.(

ABC Mildura-Swan Hill: Jennifer Douglas

)

“It looks really good. It’s a good time of the year because it’s the start of our season. We hope for reasonable sunny weather and with that an even bloom.”

Sourcing enough beehives is one challenge but navigating COVID-19 restrictions adds another level of complexity for people like Trevor Monson.

He coordinates almond pollination for a number of the farms between Tooleybuc and Hattah.

COVID-19 challenges

“Beekeepers have been really good with the [border] paperwork,” he said.

A man wearing a hi vis shirt and jacket stands in an almond orchard which is in blossom

Pollination coordinator Trevor Monson is overseeing the delivery of 400 truckloads of bees, which will be based between Tooleybuc and Hattah.(

ABC Mildura-Swan Hill: Jennifer Douglas

)

Mr Monson said this year’s COVID-19 restrictions had been even more challenging to navigate than last year.

“We ask the beekeepers to get tested before they load their bees.

“We’re only 5 kilometres from the border. They come in they unload and they’re back out again,” Mr Monson said.

The almond orchards in north-west Victoria are expected to be in full bloom within days. 

Close up on a bee sitting in a flower on an almond tree

More than 270,000 bee hives are making their way to Victoria to help with almond pollination.(

ABC Mildura-Swan Hill: Jennifer Douglas

)

Australia’s largest movement of livestock underway as beehives choppered in to pollinate almond trees
Source:
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