‘Bee survival is too variable to predict’: Okanagan beekeeper hoping for minimal losses

Ed Nowek of Planet Bee reacts to story about Kootenay honey bee farm with 70 per cent losses

Ed Nowek has been luckier than some of his fellow area beekeepers.

The owner-operator of Planet Bee, on Bella Vista Road in Vernon, reacting to a Vancouver media report of a honey bee operation in the Kootenays that lost 70 per cent of its bees over the winter, said current losses at his outlet are at about three per cent.

“We are not completely out of the woods just yet because there can still be cold weather periods as late as the third week in April,” said Nowek, who said he heard one local beekeeper has lost 50 per cent of his colonies and will have to replace at the cost of about $20,000.

Others, he said on Tuesday, following an overnight snowfall, have recorded losses of 10-to-15 per cent and winter does not appear to be over.

The cost of acquiring replacement bees has increased dramatically over the past few decades and there are still restrictions on where they’re allowed to be imported from.

The most common are package bees and queens from New Zealand, Chile and Australia, or queen bees from Hawaii and California. Bees raised in the Southern Hemisphere in opposite climatic seasons are more difficult to be successfully relocated.

READ ALSO: Vernon beekeeper concerned after spike of deaths in bee population

“Keeping bees alive and healthy has been getting more difficult over the past 30 years with the global spread of pests, parasitic mites and viruses,” said Nowek. “Add to that the effects of changing weather patterns, extended fire seasons and unseasonably cold periods of winter weather and bee survival is too variable to predict.”

Nowek said normally the bees are better able to cope with extreme cold temperatures early in the winter. The queens would have stopped laying by mid-October, food consumption is reduced and cluster temperatures are much lower as the bees settle in for winter in a semi-dormant state, moving within their hives to access the winter stores of honey.

With the warmer temperatures in January, however, and with the extended daylight hours, the bees get tricked into believing that winter is over and the queen may start egg-laying and the new cycle of brood rearing earlier than normal, which requires they maintain much higher temperatures within the hive. This greatly increases food consumption and, subsequently, there’s a higher risk of winter mortality.

Warm weather is forecast to arrive in the North Okanagan this weekend, so Nowek is hoping for the first flowers within a couple of weeks.

READ ALSO: Happy bees, happy garden

“When bees come out for their first spring cleansing flights, you may notice the brown spots of bee poop on vehicles etc., but trust that this is a sign of their survival and that the critical pollination of our food crops will be available for another season,” he said.

Another word of caution might be mentioned now that bees will be looking everywhere for the first bits of food and may be seen rummaging through clusters of sawdust, organic waste and compost or open containers of sugar or honey.

“These foraging bees are normally not aggressive but are desperate to locate the first sources of food,” said Nowek. “Please don’t be alarmed, avoid swatting at them and avoid their flight paths when possible.”



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Zero-emission student housing planned at UBC Okanagan

The Skeena project will open in September 2020

Okanagan chefs battle at Great Kitchen Party

Chef Kai Koroll of 50th Parallel Estate Winery won the event Friday night

Pre-season booming at Big White with Hallmark movie production

Big White is the main drop for Hallmark’s film Alice in Winterland

Kelowna man sentenced to 18 months probation for filming co-workers in washroom

The man was conditionally discharged following a sentencing hearing on Friday

Woman wanted on Canada-wide warrant possibly in Kelowna area

Brittany McLellan is unlawfully at large and wanted for breach of federal parole

Abortions rights advocates urge Liberals to turn politics into policy

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was pressed to clarify his stance abortion over several weeks

Closing arguments begin in B.C. case launched in 2009 over private health care

Dr. Day said he illegally opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996 in order to create more operating-room time

MacLean says “Coach’s Corner is no more” following Cherry’s dismissal from Hockey Night

Cherry had singled out new immigrants in for not honouring Canada’s veterans and fallen soldiers

MacKinnon powers Avs to 5-4 OT win over Canucks

Vancouver battled back late to pick up single point

Dallas Smith, Terri Clark to perform on CP Holiday Train’s B.C. stops

Annual festive food bank fundraiser rolling across province from Dec. 11 to 17

Poole’s Land finale: Tofino’s legendary ‘hippie commune’ being dismantled

Series of land-use fines inspire owner Michael Poole to sell the roughly 20-acre property.

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Chilliwack family’s dog missing after using online pet-sitting service

Frankie the pit bull bolted and hit by a car shortly after drop off through Rover.com

Most Read