Ana Martin’s beekeeping business Amber Drop Honey was devastated by the mid-north coast bushfires in November last year. But after relocating to the Central Coast, her business was hit again – this time by the east coast storms three weeks ago.
“We definitely were not prepared for this,” Ms Martin told news.com.au.
“It makes you feel powerless,” she said when asked about the fact her business relied heavily on nature.
“The last two years had been quite dry, so there were a lot of our hives that were collecting just enough nectar for themselves (but not much else).”
To escape the drought, Ms Martin and her husband and business partner, Sven Martin, moved half their hives to the Central Coast last winter.
It put a noticeable strain on Ms Martin, as she had to travel three hours each way to inspect her bees. The petrol and travel time were already a huge toll on the small business.
But soon drought was the least of their worries with fires sweeping through the mid-north coast in October and November last year.
“I think it was when we first got the ‘evacuate if it is safe to do so’ message that the fires really became real for us,” she said.
Their Darawank beehive site along NSW’s mid-north coast was burned, with 14 hives destroyed.
“Losing hives to the fires was really sad,” she said.
“A part of what we do, and the reason we started beekeeping, is removing bees from inconvenient locations.
“Sometimes those jobs can be quick and easy and sometimes they can take the whole day. So, for us, every colony is precious.”
Ms Martin won’t be able to put hives in the area for the next 3-4 years while she waits for the trees to recover.
“After the Darawank site burnt and some other sites were threatened (and later burnt) we kept moving hives around,” she said, luckily managing to save the rest.
Early last month disaster struck Amber Drop Honey again. This time it was in the way of water rather than fire.
“Our area, usually green and lush, had been looking rather sad and brown so when the rains started a couple of weeks ago, we were ecstatic,” she said.
“But then, of course, it just rained a bit too much, too fast.
“We had 15 hives in a site in Dunbogan that got flooded and we lost the bees.
“One of our sites in the Central Coast also got flooded.”
In a tragic turn of events, Ms Martin came too late to help the bees in the central coast.
“The distance made it impossible for us to take the bees out in time,” she said.
“We lost seven hives and the other 15 got water up to the middle of the first box and they might not make it.”
But that’s not all. The small family business has suffered many more losses than just the bees.
“There is the equipment cost, the honey that was in the hives and the loss of the future production from those colonies,” Ms Martin said.
“A colony can produce between 20-100 kilos of honey a year.
“Now, with the losses due to the floods it will much more again.”
Despite the terrible stroke of bad luck, Ms Martin has quite a philosophical approach to her predicament.
“Well, it looks like we are going from one extreme to the other,” she said.
“Dear Weather Gods, I know that you must have received thousands of rain dances and prayers but a little bit of moderation would be appreciated.
“We really needed the rain, so on one side we are happy everything is green again, but of course, we are upset about losing our hives.”
She is donating part of her money to a GoFundMe to help other beekeepers who lost all their hives in the fires.
Amber Drop Honey is also donating 5 per cent of their earnings to Save the Bees.
“Our business has been affected, but we are still trading, still going to markets and we have a lot of customers supporting us.”
“We have been much luckier than others,” she said.
If you want to help, you can head to Ms Martin’s GoFundMe page here.