New methods for designing year-round high-value honey production sites and systems
Commercial and semi-commercial beekeepers in Australia and internationally are returning to stationary beekeeping. This move comes as suitable habitat for honey bees (Apis mellifera) declines, the cost of transport increases and we face concerns regarding the impact of hive migration on honey bee health and pest and disease transfer. Restoring lands with the right mix of high-value, high-yielding melliferous flora can create productive year-round stationary enterprises. However, designing year-round high-value honey production sites is made difficult by a lack of guidelines and tools.
My project will create models that can be used by apiarists to predict the productivity of a hive site. Predictions will be made based on the species of flora present and the distribution of the flora across the site. Models will inform decisions regarding optimal locations for hives, optimal timing of movement of hives between locations and flora enrichment to improve site productivity and honey quality. We will account for temporal variation in flowering, nectar and pollen production, as well as bee colony population dynamics. Spatial factors such as plant location, density, patchiness and bee foraging preferences may also be included. Predictive models will be validated through monitoring hive production and bee movement amongst local flora at case study sites. Methods for designing optimal year-round flowering sites in Australia will be developed, based on these models.