Frightfully Slow

Canada’s spring has been frightfully slow this year. Snow was on the menu coast-to-coast-to-coast in April and early May. As seasoned beekeepers will admit, wintering bees at our latitude is not too hard until mid-March. In springtime, cold damp windy weather can take a heavy toll. Just when you feel you’ve done a great job packing and preparing the boxes, and losses don’t seem significant, you find fewer live hives with each spring inspection. This is when queen losses become apparent and small populations don’t achieve critical mass. Bees drift, the elderly succumb, the failing queens expire.

Things were not so bad in southern Alberta. Erika told me winter losses were around 15% down in Milo, Alberta. I haven’t been out looking at those bees – they are now Erika and Justin’s project to manage. But I have been listening to the results other beekeepers have posted, and it’s generally not so good. My friend John Gibeau, owner and operator of the amazing Honeybee Centre out near the Pacific coast, has told the Surrey Leader that things have been better. Mostly due to high winter losses several years in a row, blueberry pollination is in trouble. “…there’s not enough bees to go around,” according to the news pieces “Bee shortage stings farmers, beekeepers.” Mr Gibeau reported that new blueberry plantings, increased colony density on existing fields, and fewer commercial hives has meant “growers are out thousands of colonies.” Growers need about 4 hives per acres to assure a good fruit set.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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