Spring has just arrived and the Shuswap’s fields and gardens will soon be buzzing with bees. Many of those bees make their home in hives maintained by local beekeepers.
As winter drew to a close, beekeepers inspected their hives to see how they had fared in the cold temperatures. The news was good at Orlando Robertson’s apiary in Grindrod, one of several he maintains around the Shuswap and in Ashcroft. A pair of Robertson’s best hives, Robertson said they yielded 60 lbs. of honey each while still leaving plenty for the bees.
Robertson sells the honey his bees produce and also provides it to his dad’s winery where it is made into organic mead. Along with the honey, Robertson sells nucleus colonies, wooden hives stocked with a small population of bees, which beekeepers use to start off apiaries of their own.
Robertson said there is lots of interest in beekeeping in the area with his nucleus colonies selling well to both new and established beekeepers. He said many new beekeepers are devastated when their hives do not survive through the winter. His own first hive did not survive.
“If you’ve got live stock you’ve got dead stock,” Robertson of the inevitable loss of some bees.
A myriad of conditions including, temperature, humidity, availability of food and prevalence of parasitic mites all affect bees prospects for survival.
Attentively watching as Robertson pulled the tops off the hives and inspected them to see if colonies had to be merged were hobbyist beekeepers Holly Farris and Ernie Meier. Farris and Meier lost a large proportion of their bees over the winter but say they enjoy keeping the bees and the small amount of honey they were able to harvest last Summer.
Farris said she has managed to not get stung the entire time she has keeping bees, habitually wearing a protective suit.
As the bees feed on blooming plants, Robertson said those whose properties are near apiaries or natural bee hives can help the bees by not eradicating dandelions and other flowering plants.
There is a thriving community of beekeepers in the Shuswap who share knowledge through a social media group and through meetings and seminars. A seminar is being held at Buckerfield’s in Salmon Arm by Bill Stagg from Sweet Acres Apiaries on March 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.