Beekeepers provide pollination for many food crops including almonds, apples, carrots, citrus, pears, kiwi and lucerne to name just a few!
Commercial apiary operations in Australia are migratory (meaning that the hives are shifted) due to different floral resources being available in different areas at different times of the year. In order for bees to be strong and healthy they must have access to a variety of pollen and nectar.
Pollen is a source of protein and fats while nectar is a source of carbohydrate (energy). The bees within the colony will use the pollen and nectar for different reasons. A mixture of pollen and nectar is made into ‘bee bread’ which is used to feed the young. Nectar is gathered, deposited in a cell, ripened (evaporated to reduce moisture content) and then capped with a thin layer of wax. This provides a source of food for the colony.
During the winter, many apiarists move their bees to ‘wintering sites’. These sites are usually in a warmer and dryer environment where the bees can take advantage of pollen and nectar resources. Often, these ‘wintering sites’ are in areas of remnant scrub and conservation parks.
Many of these hives are then transported to the almond orchards throughout the Riverland in readiness for the July-August flowering. Almond trees require cross-pollination by bees in order to produce almonds.
Following almond pollination, hives may be moved to early flowering mallee species, or canola, then citrus orchards, while others find ground flora (weeds!) brought on by spring rains.
Later in spring and into summer, hives may be moved to areas where there are stands of native trees to take advantage of nectar flows for honey production. Generally gums will produce most of their nectar when the weather is hot and sunny.
Summer sees some hives remaining near native trees, and many being used to pollinate lucerne crops. Depending on the weather, and the types of lucerne being grown, this can be a useful honey crop.