Fast Facts

Production system

20 hives are currently on site for use in training for the Certificate III in Beekeeping.

From Spring 2020, 250 hives will be established within the Honey Bee Genetic Improvement Program to establish the Tocal bee enterprise.

Property resources for honey production

The property has either existing and potential value as a floral resource depending on flowering crops sown. Additionally, 249ha of timbered country set aside for environmental value will grow into high value nectar production if allowed to mature. Hectares utilised by the horse breeding and dairy programs will only be passively utilised by the enterprise foraging activities when flowering pasture plants or remnant timber species are producing nectar.

Floral resource areas

The usable area for honey production includes a mix of timbered grazing country including:

  • 609ha of heavily timbered country
  • Lucerne.

The primary floral resources on the Tocal property of importance to the Bee Enterprise are:

  • Corymbia maculata (spotted gum)
  • Angophora floribunda (rough-barked apple)
  • Eucalyptus tereticornis (forest red gum)
  • Eucalyptus paniculata (coastal grey ironbark)
  • Eucalyptus moluccana (grey box)
  • Eucalyptus punctata (grey gum).

Marginal floral resources include:

  • white clover
  • lucerne
  • Eucalyptus blakelyi (Blakely’s red gum)
  • Grevillea robusta (silk oak)
  • Corymbia torelliana (cadaghi)
  • Eucalyptus sideroxylon (mugga or ironbark).

Stocking rate

There is no stipulated stocking rate for honey bee hives legislated in NSW. The greatest number of hives to reside across the Tocal property at any given time will be Tocal property and farms (2021 update) 89 350.


950mm on average. Seasonal variability is significant for example 2016 was a very tough winter with below-average rain and no decent run off rain to fill dams in 12 months. In seasons with below average rainfall, nectar and pollen production will suffer and supplemental feeding in conjunction with strategic hive migration to offsite apiary sites will be necessary.

Production system

The breeding program produces artificially inseminated (AI) breeder queens for sale and AI queens to replace the 200 production queens within the Honey Bee Genetic Improvement Program.

The market for breeder queens is nationwide with the exception of Western Australia due to quarantine restrictions. At the high end, breeder queens are sold for $1,000.

Two distinct lines will be maintained under the closed population (supersedure replacement method) breeding model for honey bees; Italian and Carniolan/Caucasian lines.

Selection occurs from August through May every year. Breeding occurs from October through February every year pending seasonal conditions affecting availability of drones.

The Tocal Bee Enterprise is structured into two main groups:

Italian Line:
  • 25 breeder hives
  • 200 production hives: populated by F1 daughters of the 25 breeder hives
  • Offsite F1 daughters also populate industry research partner hives managed within commercial beekeeping businesses in NSW
Carniolan/Caucasian Line
  • 25 breeder hives
  • 200 production hives: populated by F1 daughters of the 25 breeder hives
  • Offsite F1 daughters also populate industry research partner hives managed within commercial beekeeping businesses in NSW


The major market focus is wholesale honey production for sale to a commercial honey packer, provision of contract pollination services to almond growers, and breeder queen sale to beekeeping businesses nationally. Income is primarily received from these three activities and will be used toward Tocal bee enterprise operating costs. Income is also received from production of beeswax which, at initial small quantities will be traded for beekeeping equipment from a beekeeping supply store to contribute to annual comb replacement.


The beekeeping industry has a clear objective of preserving native flora. It depends on the preservation of native flora and hence has much in common with those who Tocal property and farms (2021 update) 90 support nature conservation and the establishment of conservation reserves. The bee enterprise provides a justification to maintain and regenerate native timbers on the Tocal site, as in the proposed Voluntary Conservation Area in Ridge paddock, yielding farm product outcomes (i.e. - breeder queens and honey).

Continued access to floral resources faces an extensive number of threats, namely:

  • climate change, which is affecting the flowering patterns of key flora.
  • land clearing for agriculture
  • forestry activities that remove flowering trees
  • replacement of felled trees with pine and low-pollen- and nectar-yielding eucalypt plantations
  • fires, including hazard reduction and natural bushfires
  • reduced and unseasonal flooding of river red gum forests
  • reduction of vehicle access to good-quality sites
  • firewood harvesting
  • salinity, which harms the health of the available flora
  • droughts, which reduce flowering and interrupt growth cycles
  • dieback of eucalypt species
  • agricultural practices that reduce the abundance of flowering weed species
  • pesticide use on flowering crops that are attractive to foraging honey bees
  • newer varieties of agricultural crops that are not as beneficial to honey bees
  • urban sprawl and rural subdivisions, which remove mature vegetation and reduce the number of apiary sites; this also adds public safety concerns

For more images taken on the Tocal farms go to our Tocal Farms Flickr album

For videos about the Tocal farms go to our YouTube channel (NSW SPI Schools Program)