THREE million bees.
That's about how many little, buzzing pollen collectors the Poile family of beekeepers lost in the summer bushfires.
The Collector-based honey producers are well-known in the area as regular stallholders at the monthly Parkside Markets in Goulburn.
But because the markets have been shut due to COVID-19 regulations, many may not have heard that about 75 per cent of Poile's Honey hives were incinerated in the fires around Mogo.
"Goulburn was too hot and dry (late last year), so we took them to a site down the coast," said Gary Poile, who runs Poile's Honey with his son Bradley.
"It was tricky getting them down there because of the road closures but we pushed on and got them down there, and then they were stuck there on New Year's Eve when it all went bad.
"They ended up a pile of charcoal."
Mr Poile said the site near Mogo was what he considered to be a safe place under normal circumstances, a big cleared area in the bush which had been previously burned for hazard reduction.
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"There were still trees burning and falling over when we went to get the remaining ones out, some still smouldering."
Mr Poile said that, due to their wax content, beehives "go up like a torch" if an ember lands on them.
There are 40,000 bees in a hive, on average, meaning the number of insects that perished was in the millions.
"That's not pleasant, it leaves you doing a bit soul searching afterwards," he said.
"I keep thinking - could I have done this better?"
Of the 100 hives they had before the fires, the Poiles now only have about 25, which Mr Poile believes is enough to rebuild.
They have already received some bushfire funding through the Rural Assistance Authority Special Disaster Grant, although they only got half of what they applied for.
"But I was pretty happy to get anything, I wasn't expecting to do any good at all," said Mr Poile.
"It's very handy to get it as we didn't get any money from the honey this year. We do run sheep too, so don't have all our eggs in one basket."
The hives they have left are at the farm in Collector, where they will wait quietly over winter before being split up into new ones in spring to start again.
"We only have a bit to sell now, but we're working with another local beekeeper who's supplying some," said Mr Polie, who added that they were still delivering to regular customers.
The latest round of bushfire funding is aimed at bushfire-impacted dairy farmers, fruit growers and forestry businesses through the NSW Government's $140 million Bushfire Industry Recovery Package.
Supply chain support grants are available for activities such as:
- Clean up of damaged orchard equipment or replacing trees, trellises and netting;
- Repair of vineyards directly damaged by bushfire, including site clean-up;
- Beekeepers purchasing pollen, pollen substitutes or sugar to feed their hives;
- Purchasing oyster spat to replace oysters killed due to ash or fireground run-off;
- Re-establishing dairy pastures, herd rebuilding and buying or replacing lost fodder;
- Haulage and storage of burnt forestry timber.
Applications are now open. For more information, including how to apply, important deadlines, program guidelines and eligibility critiera, click here.
The story PHOTOS | Hives turned to charcoal, but Poiles hope to rebuild first appeared on Goulburn Post.