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It's official- worst Spring for bees in SA in decades


Last night at the SA Bee Society the discussion was about what an awful spring it has been. very few people are seeing any honey, many are removing their empty supers and colonies are stressed, low on honey and many have chalkbrood. Also the swarm season was noted to be low on swarms. It has been suggested that beekeepers may need to consider feeding hives sugar to help them along.

the reasons are a very dry winter- and then spring rains that were not deep enough- or coincided with winds that blew away the moisture.

It’s not all doom and gloom: my Mum’s hive in semaphore is going nicely and we’ve already made a few harvests with more on the horizon. But my own hives at various locations are just struggling along with little excess honey.

hopefully the summer and autumn will be better.

Any SA beekeepers on the forum having a good/bad season they can report on? Curious to hear what others think.


Will feeding the banana help with the chalk brood?


I don’t know if it works or not- but I have just left two hives with sliced bananas in the attics. i will go back and check on them in a few days- if it cools down (currently around 35c).


Hi Jack,
At my place on Kangaroo Island my bees have been on a good flow, harvested my flowhive a week ago for 20kg, the bees are already refilling it
My langstroth hives are filling fast and plenty of mallee flowering but I hear some of the pros are struggling to fill there big orders of around 5 ton !
Now we have a big fire on the Southside of the Island
Regards brian


I hope the bees eat it or the placement of the banana might need relocating. Tell us if it works too!


Hi Jack, i am in Northern NSW near Tweed Heads & it’s definitely a different spring. It was an unseasonally dry winter.

We’ve a flourishing vegie patch and it’s been so dry that there’s been no slugs eating out strawberries (after 5 yrs if strawberries suddenly heaps of berrries and no slugs - it’s usually the other way around.)

I think my bees swarmed very early late August, and i’ve stressed the bees out so we’ve had no honey at all.


I’m in CHCH NZ but it is also an unproductive spring/summer. We should be in the height of the flow but it is raining most days! Collection is sporadic, then they eat it all to survive… tough times.


I began my Spring splits in July for swarm prevention when the Wattle started to bloom. A very short and mild Winter up here. Some much needed rain over the past month and some hot days. Lots of bush flowers but I think there is not a lot of nectar in them as honey production has slowed.
Cheers Caterina



Hi Jack, merry Christmas, I reckon your bees will survive. I told Wilma that the only colonies that should die out are wild colonies. All managed colonies should survive, provided they are not neglected.


I hope so Jeff- I checked some hives I have in the Adelaide hills the other day- and they were quite weak- very little in the way of stores and low on numbers. Looks like I will have to feed them- which I will start doing next week. My hives in the suburbs are in much better shape- many don’t have supers on them but the numbers are OK and the bees are very busy and active. I have fed some of them sugar syrup over the last few weeks.

My cut-out hive turned out to be very good- absolutely jam packed with bees- I will have to transfer it from a Nuc to a full brood box in just a few days judging by the beard it had yesterday when it got hot.

My mum’s hive is bucking the trend and is very strong- it has a full flow super and an ideal of honeycomb that is 90% finished. It was harvested just 6 weeks ago and is ready to go again.

We have some very hot weather on the way- I hope that doesn’t stress the bees too much.

On a hopeful note: a lot of gums have started flowering- at one of my apiaries there are a lot of very large river red gums that just burst into flower last week. .

merry Xmas to you and Wilma!


the bees didn’t eat the banana- but the chalkbrood has cleared up. Not sure if it was the banana- but it certainly didn’t seem to hurt.


Thanks Jack, that’s good news about the cut-out hive. I think the main thing is to make sure they have honey in one or two of the frames. Even if it means juggling frames from one hive to another. I did a bit of that this morning (Christmas morning). One split I did was big on brood & bees but low on honey. A frame with a bit of honey in it was good insurance for a few days, seeing as all of the field bees will return to the old site.


I find this interesting as my thinking goes the other way. To me wild colonies have not had their stores robbed so should have food and unlike bought queens which are bred for honey production wild bees are more survivor bees woven into the environment.
Yes swarms from bought queen colonies that have gone wild could be exceptions. I have a colony in a tree that has been there as long as I remember which just keeps going and going through all conditions.

I’m in an area of dearth currently and I regularly lift the hives to gauge the weight. 3 years ago it was the worst season in decades here, no honey, the following ordinary then last year a bumper.
Urban gardens certainly provide for the bees, I met someone urban recently who had just harvested, honey comb in the lid n all. Yet up here, not so urban, weight is reducing and comb production at a stand still. Even down the scarp a bit, closer to the 1/4 acre blocks honeys being harvested…
It’s the smaller colonies like cast swarms and recent splits that are the most vulnerable from lack of stores and robbing.


I realized that that statement can be interpreted different to how it was intended. What I’m trying to convey is that no managed colony should die from starvation if they are managed correctly. It’s only neglected hives or wild colonies that will starve to death. Anyway honeybees don’t belong in the wild, they are not native to Australia.


I’m really surprised to hear that honey yields are down everywhere. We were just discussing what a bumper spring we had and I almost wish the nectar flow gives us a break. Drowning in honey and honeycomb.
That’s up here in the NP mountains as well as the out hives in beach suburbia.
We had to go away for work and I had to do 2 emergency splits the day before (couldn’t do before coz of rain) and had to put extra supers on all the colonies.
Guess the rains we had were very localized and I see eucalyptus flowering everywhere.
@BeeShack isn’t far away.
Thank the heavens we have a hive observation system. Can see the weight the colonies put on daily. 1-2kg every day. At the height of the flow it was up to 3kg/day. Never seen it like that, but it’s only my 3rd year beekeeping.


Maybe there was something in the banana that killed the germs?


possibly- but we also had drier warmer weather which should help clear up chalkbrood. Last year I only had one hive with it- this year I have seen it in multiple hives- we are having a terrible season in my part of Australia.


Hi Jack,
2 years ago we had a terrible season, but I didn’t recognize it as such yet. Guess we all experience the most excellent, the good, the bad and the ugly season once in a while.
I had a colony with bad chalk brood for a full year. Didn’t want to requeen, was an Italian redhead queen. The banana worked a bit, but then the SHB loved it too. In the end it helped to give them a couple of brood frames from another colony. That and a nectar flow helped to overcome the chalkbrood in the end. Now they are real strong. Feed some syrup if there’s no nectar for them. Not sure what one does if there’s no pollen either. Banana?
Things will get better for you down South. Surely. Once this crazy heat goes elsewhere.


Jack, if there’s no pollen, you can always fall back on unbleached wheat flour :slight_smile:

My first big honey sale was to a Mormon. Apparently they believe in storing food in case of Armageddon, or something like that. He told me of the 4 items they store. Wheat, honey, salt & water. We can survive on those 4 items.
If we can, why can’t the bees? they’ll already have the honey/syrup we supply them.