The taste of Kangaroo Island honey could be set to change, as struggling local beekeepers try everything to keep the world’s purest strain of bees alive and thriving after the deadly bushfires.

Key points:

  • Kangaroo Island is home to the Ligurian bee and is considered a disease-free bee sanctuary
  • Bushfires devastated the western half of the island last year
  • Honey production on the island has dropped by up to 75 per cent

Kangaroo Island is home to the Ligurian bee and is considered a disease-free bee sanctuary.

But that has come under threat after thousands of bees were killed and more than a thousand hives destroyed when fire ripped through Kangaroo Island in January last year.

Beekeeper Mick Geursen is rebuilding his business of 10 years from scratch, after losing 500 hives and the bees inside, along with his packing shed, stock, equipment and new hives he was planning to use, as well as his home.

But it is a mammoth job to rebuild given tough biosecurity rules mean all hives must be built on the island using local tools.

“We’re the last pure strain of Ligurian bee left in the world, we’re also disease free — we don’t have AFB (American foulbrood) — so everything we can do to keep the industry going over here is really important.”

Beekeeper Mick Geursen has had to rebuild his beekeeping business from scratch after losing everything in the bushfires.(

ABC News: Lincoln Rothall


Adelaide beekeepers lend a hand rebuilding hives

A group of Adelaide beekeepers has stepped in to help, travelling to the island every few months to help rebuild the hives from flat packs.

Their help has saved local beekeepers thousands of hours’ work.

Volunteer Trisha Blanks said they were providing emotional, as well as physical support to affected beekeepers.

“Half of the boxes that have already been made are already active with bees, so it’s very, very exciting to be part of that rebuilding process.

“We’d like to continue the build a box program for years to come and keep supporting them in whatever way they need.”

Honey production significantly drops

Honey production on the island has dropped by up to 75 per cent since the bushfire, as the native vegetation where the bees collected their pollen and nectar was decimated.

Honey deliveries to the mainland have stalled and even farm shop sales have had to be restricted with demand outstripping supply.

Bev Nolan from Clifford’s Honey Farm said it would take up to a decade for the industry to fully recover.

Honey producer Bev Nolan says the industry needs to think outside the box.(

ABC News: Lincoln Rothall


“It’s been the biggest event for the beekeepers on Kangaroo Island since the last five decades Dad’s been beekeeping.

“We can’t bring bees in to breed up the numbers, we have to use what stock we have left … it involves queen breeding, splitting hives, collecting wild swarms, so all the beekeepers are working really hard to get on top of that.”

Ms Nolan said beekeepers were having to think outside the box to keep the bees and the industry alive.

She said that included feeding the bees on new flowers that they had not tried before which would lead to new flavours of honey.

Beekeepers look outside the box

Beekeeper Shawn Hinves, who is also the president of the KI Beekeepers Association, said the impact has been “severe” and his honey deliveries to the mainland had scaled right back.

He said he had to diversify his business into a “beekeeping experience” for tourists to keep some money flowing in.

“We now suit people up, take them out to a live hive, show them the insides of the hive, they’re holding frames of bees and we show them the queen.

“Then we go through the extraction process and how it all works as a beekeeper.”

Shawn and Anthea Hinves have diversified their business into a ‘beekeeping experience’ for tourists.(

ABC News: Lincoln Rothall


Despite the challenges, those in the industry are determined to help the Ligurian bee and Kangaroo Island honey industry recover.

“We have the Ligurian bee genetics and they are special, we are a bee sanctuary, the bees here are protected and many of us feel very responsible to care for that and look after them and preserve what we have here,” Mr Hinves said.

“Who knows what the future holds worldwide with the bee diseases and pests that we have; we’re relatively safe here.”