Happy Birthday Canada! 149 years ago, the Fathers of Confederation signed the paperwork that began the Canadian experience. I always figured it was kind of those politicians to give us a summer holiday that suits a beekeeper’s calendar. Across most of Canada, honey boxes are stacked high on the hives, the honey flows have begun, but extracting is a week or two away. So beekeepers begin July with a slightly more relaxed workday on Canada Day, though it may be their last breather before things get really hectic.
Canadian beekeepers do well – the country’s 8,500 beekeepers bottle 100 million pounds of the good stuff. That averages 12,000 pounds per beekeeper and over 100 pounds per hive. (Of course, there are beekeeps making a million pounds a year and in places like Alberta, 200 pounds per hive is common.) Our northern latitude gives us long summer days. Most of the country has a ‘continental climate’ which includes hot summers. Our formula for success also includes long, warm days and nectariferous field crops (especially clovers, alfalfa, and canola).
I’ve been lucky enough to keep bees in two provinces and three different areas – the desert-like grasslands of southern Saskatchewan, the parkland of northern Saskatchewan, and the mountain foothills of western Alberta. But Canada is more than my narrow experience. Bees are kept from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, from the arctic’s Yukon to Pelee Island in the sunny south. To really celebrate Canada Day, I’ve got Stompin’ Tom queued up, so don’t go away.
Canada is a major honey producing country, but has fallen a bit at the global scale. A few decades ago, Canada was the fourth-largest honey-making country in the world. Today, we are at about 14th place with previously small producers like Ethiopia and Iran now tonnes ahead of us. But, as a consolation prize, we still make the world’s best honey!