Flood waters at least knee deep to a bee. – photo: Miksha

My home town has been hit by a flood. We would call it the “once in a century flood” but we had that back in 2005. We are told, however, that this flood beat all records for high-water levels over the past 90 years. Calgary has a bit over a million folks living here. 100,000 people were evacuated from 25 neighbourhoods. The hundred or so skyscrapers in the downtown had their basement parklots filled with water – some of those big buildings had four feet of water in their lobbies. The zoo is built on an island that submerged. First time that’s happened in living memory. The animals survived, but the hippos were lifted by the swollen river and swam up out of their enclosures. We thought they were headed downstream for Saskatchewan, but they were caught before they were swept away. If you’d like to gawk at some astonishing pictures, here’s a good link.

I have heard almost nothing about the city’s beehives. The Calgary Bee Club sent out bulletins offering help with trucks and trailers to relocate unlucky hives, but it seems people here have very few (if any) kept colonies down by the riverside. South of town and out on the prairie, there were likely a few yards hit by the high water. Beekeepers will need to sterilize equipment flooded by city water. It wouldn’t be smart to skip that chore. (By the way, the photo above is one of my yards during an earlier flood, along the Frenchman River in Saskatchewan. Look closely, you won’t see the hippos.)

A half hour south of Calgary is a town aptly named High River. A week after the flood, High River still had 13,000 people homeless. There is one large bee outfit in High River, the Greidanus family. They lost at least 300 hives, washed away in the river, and they reportedly had close to a foot of water on their honey house floor. According to the farm paper, the Western Producer, their extracting equipment wasn’t ruined, but they have layers of silt and mud on the shop floor. The biggest loss will be the hundreds of hives and the lost honey crop.

What caused the worst flood in Calgary’s history? A storm slid up from Colorado, then became trapped in the foothills of the Rockies just to the west. There were 14 inches of rain in a bit over a day. That deluge, plus mountain glacial melt and runoff from snow, overloaded the Elbow and Bow Rivers which meet in the city’s downtown. The rest, as they say, is misery.

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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