Tasmanian apiary industry summary

Source of text: Tasmanian Depratment of Primary Industries and Water

European bees were first successfully introduced into Tasmania in 1831 and the first Italian bees were introduced in 1884. The industry produces honey, beeswax and provides pollination services to the seed and fruit growing industries.

Approximately two-thirds of Tasmania's honey production is from leatherwood blossom. The remainder includes honey types such as clover, blackberry and gum. The leatherwood flow is from early January to April and is the basis of the commercial industry in Tasmania.

Leatherwood grows in rainforests in the southern and western areas of the State largely within regions managed and controlled by State Government authorities as either production forests or the World Heritage Area.

Leatherwood honey has a strong flavour and particularly distinctive aroma. It is unique to Tasmania and has established a worldwide reputation as a distinct honey type.

Industry structure

Production sector

Production levels have peaked relative to available natural nectar resources. The following table shows the total number of beekeepers and hives per beekeeper for 2001-02. The figures are derived from official registration figures, and the great majority of these beekeepers are part-timers or hobbyists.

Tasmanian Registered Beekeepers 2001/2002

Hives per Beekeeper

Number of Beekeepers

Total Number of Hives




101 - 200



51 - 100



21 - 50



11 - 20



5 - 10



1 - 4






Processing Sector

Tasmania has three major packing operators located at Mole Creek, Perth and Woodbridge. Most beekeepers do a limited amount of packaging for local and door sales. Significant quantities are sold in bulk for direct export and to interstate private and cooperative packers.


Tasmanian beekeepers are responsible for marketing their own honey. Domestic and interstate sales are relatively free of regulation compared with exports, which are quite heavily controlled.

The leatherwood variety, sourced largely from Tasmania's unpolluted wilderness areas, accounts for around 65% of Tasmania's honey. Some 20% of sales are in the local market, 50% interstate and 30% overseas. Significant proportions of the interstate sales of leatherwood honey are eventually exported overseas.

Tasmanian exports of honey are mainly in bulk to the United Kingdom and Germany. About 20% has added value, being honey that is in prepacked form in containers of 4kg or less. Prepacked honey is sent to some 27 countries around the world.

Pollination Services

Beekeepers are diversifying their operations by undertaking commercial crop pollination services. Many of the horticultural and small seeds crops grown in Tasmania depend to varying degrees on the honey bee for pollination.

The economic value of pollination services to Tasmanian agricultural and horticultural production is estimated to be 188 million dollars. (Miller, DPIWE, 2001).

Hives are placed on or near crops, under contract to the farmer, for the specific purpose of pollinating that crop. Among the fruit and seed crops involved are apples, cabbages, carrots, cauliflowers, cherries, clover, fennel, onions and berry fruits.

The following table summarises current and predicted production trends and values for Tasmania's fruit producing sectors:


Current Production/Value

Projected Production/Value
(5 years)


/$40 million

/$40 million


1000tns/$8 million

4000tns/$25 million

Berry Fruit

1340tns/$1 million

3500tns/$15 million

Increasing awareness of the benefits of paid pollination services amongst crop producers is resulting in a growth in the demand for hives. Beekeepers have previously been reluctant to commit their hives during periods of main honey flow, particularly leatherwood, unless they have been adequately compensated.

The Australian Honeybee Industry Council (AHBIC) is funded by voluntary levy and is the peak body representing the apiary industry in Australia. AHBIC is made up from members of the four Associations that represent the honey producers, honey packers, pollinators and queen breeders.

These are the Federal Council of Australian Apiarists' Associations (FCAAA), Honey Packers and Marketers Association Australia, National Council of Pollination Associations and the Australian Queen Bee Breeders Association respectively. AHBIC is responsible for the development and implementation of beekeeping policy in Australia.

The Tasmanian Beekeepers' Association Inc. was founded in 1946. It has branches in the North-West, North and South of the State. It is affiliated with the FCAAA which represents the honey production sector of the industry on the board of AHBIC.

The Tasmanian Crop Pollination Association Inc. was founded in 1999. It is a member of the National Council of Pollination Associations, which represents the pollination sector of the industry on the board of AHBIC.

Research and development in the industry is funded by a honeybee program under the Rural Industry Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC). Priority areas include bee nutrition, bee diseases, pollination and resource management.

The Apiary Industry Liaison Committee was established in 1978. It is managed and chaired by the Department of Primary Industries and Water (DPIW). It is made up of representatives from DPIW, Forestry Tasmania, Hydro Electric Commission (HEC), Tasmanian Beekeepers' Association Inc. and Tasmanian Crop Pollination Association Inc. The committee meets four times a year to address apiary industry issues, including government policies that impact on the industry and licensed apiary sites on public lands

Strategic importance

Tasmanian Leatherwood honey is seen as an icon for Tasmania's clean green image and food products. It is a natural food harvested from wilderness and wet forest areas that can be linked to other Tasmanian products and Tasmania's branding image.

Honey production provides employment across all areas of the State.

Many of the horticultural and small seeds crops grown in Tasmania depend to varying degrees on the honey bee for pollination. The expansion of the seed industry and stone fruit industries will be dependent on viable pollination services.

Government inputs and involvement

Government activity relates mainly to the overseeing of disease management and pest freedom, the security of long term access to production forests and World Heritage Area stands of leatherwood, the licensing of apiary sites and compliance.

The DPIW has a leading role in the control of bee diseases and pests, and duties include extension, advice and surveillance. The DPIW is also involved in assisting the industry to implement apiary industry disease control programs. All products for export, are certified by the DPIW.

The land management responsibilities of DPIW include management and leasing of apiary sites on all public lands (with the exception of land managed by Forestry Tasmania and the HEC). This includes reserved lands, the World Heritage Area and unallocated crown land.

Forestry Tasmania conducts some ecological and silvicultural studies on leatherwood, and has the responsibility for management and leasing of apiary sites in production forests.

Future objectives for the industry

Industry objectives for the future include:

  • Maintaining long term viability;
  • Guaranteed access to public lands with floral resource security through the management plans for leatherwood and conserved public lands;
  • To improve profitability;
  • To maintain existing high quality standards and low disease status;
  • To give high priority to research, extension, education and training;
  • Market enhancement through the implementation of disease and residue monitoring programs;
  • Developing strategies that will increase the nectar floral resource in Tasmania;
  • The expansion of commercial pollination services;
  • The enhancement of public awareness of the industry in Tasmania;and

To maintain effective representation of the concerns of Tasmanian beekeepers at a National level.