The bees of Keswick Island, tropical Queensland
The little-known island of Keswick, part of the South Cumberland Islands off the coast of Mackay are home to a population of honey bees free from major disease
The first few hives of bees were brought to Keswick Island, part of the South Cumberland Islands, from Innisfail, south of Cairns, in 1985.
The hives were – and still are – free from any major diseases. The man charged with obtaining these bees in 1986 was Clive Covey, an apiarist from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. His sons, Des and John, maintain the hives today, and it’s hard to over-estimate the importance of these disease- free stocks.
While diseases such as chalkbrood (which appeared in Queensland in 1993) and the varroa mite (which hasn’t yet reached Australia) have ravaged hives and led to the collapse of colonies elsewhere, queens from Keswick have been posted across Australia and beyond, to ensure the survival of healthy new generations.
Read the full story in #128 of Australian Geographic.