The wet weather of tropical northern Queensland would normally turn bees into porridge, but a colony of hardy workers is being bred to survive unscathed through the wet season.
- Honey producers Doug and Janine Cannon hope to breed stronger and more resistant bees
- The focus is on ensuring that bees are well adapted to where they live
- They breed queens who are then able to mate with wild bees in the area
Raising bees that can stand the test of time has been the passionate year-long project of a couple in northern Queensland who are now determined to breed bees that can thrive in a wet environment.
After succeeding in breeding bees that adapted to the coastal climate of Mackay, Doug and Janine Cannon wanted to see if they could take what they had learned and transfer knowledge to a more difficult place – the tropical rainforests of Eungella.
The honey producers said that when it came to their bees, the amount of honey they received came second to ensure that the bees were well adapted to where they lived.
“We are trying to achieve a resilient bee that will survive us and we do not want to wrap them in cotton wool and care for them all the time,” said Mr. Cannon.
The Cannon family is now branching out into new areas where they can take advantage of their unique approach to beekeeping.
Continuous push to adapt bees to new environments
It has been a long and challenging journey to get their honey business to where it is today.
“We found that by buying queens from places like Brisbane or the south while producing a lot of honey, they were pretty weak, especially for our relationship,” said Mr. Cannon.
They have recently created a new location in Eungella’s tropical rainforest terrain, an hour’s drive west of Mackay.
It is known for its heavy rainfall and significantly cooler climate.
It has been a test of patience for the couple, and it took a full 12 months before the bees produced honey that could be sold.
“It has been a bit of a process to get these bees located and adapted to their environment,” said Mr. Cannon.
“We’ve lost a few pieces along the way because we have a completely unique environment up here with lots of rain.
‘Wherever we live, bees can survive’
The cannons have always had a simple approach to beekeeping – breeding queen bees, which are then able to mate with bees in the local environment.
“The wild bush bees will breed naturally with our virgin queens,” Mr Cannon said.
New colonies are then established by making a ‘split’, which involves taking part of a colony from one stage and establishing them in a new stage.
“So they will raise their own queen, and then the virgin queen will wait with about 12 wild drones or the ones we have here, and that will essentially pass on the genetics to the next generation,” said Mr. Cannon.
The process of having a colony that raises its own queen is known as a “walk away split”.
“[Back in Mackay] we found the ones we raised where we did a walk away split, those bees would get stronger and stronger, nine times out of 10 for us, “Mr. Cannon said.
“So we adopt that principle again, up on Eungella here.
“We just thought that no matter where we live, bees can survive, and they should survive.”