‘It’s never a singular cause,’ too soon for Kelowna beekeepers to determine success of hives

With a cold snap this February, one Central Okanagan beekeeper says his hives are OK so far

While the winter season and sudden warm weather may be tough for honey bees, it’s too soon to determine if Central Okanagan beekeepers have experienced significant losses.

January was a warmer month, with February being the second coldest on record in Kelowna.

Bob Chisholm, with Kelowna’s Brainy Bee, said his hives seem healthy so far, but he still has to check all of his 175 hives.

“We’ve got some losses but they aren’t serious, we can deal with it,” he said.

READ MORE: UBC study shows honey bees can help monitor pollution in cities

Chisholm has been beekeeping since the early 2000s, and said climate change, parasites and other environmental factors have made it more difficult to do his job than in the past.

To lose a hive usually equals about $450 to replace the bees, he said.

“We lose some, we always do,” he said.

At a North Okanagan Beekeepers club meeting Monday night at Okanagan College, only one out of roughly 40 bee keepers said they lost more than 40 per cent of their hives, not including beginner bee keepers with only a few hives.

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

Paul van Westendorp, beekeeper with the province, gave a presentation during the meeting, saying where there has been a beekeeper in the Fraser Valley who experienced a loss of 6,000 out of 7,000 hives, hive losses have varied across the province and it’s too early in the season to tell accurately if weather played a significant role.

READ MORE: Bee symposium generating a buzz in Kelowna

Abnormal winter patterns will always impact the bees, but how much they’re impacted has yet to be determined, he said.

“It’s never a singular cause,” he said.

It’s also harder to be a bee keeper nowadays compared to 30 years ago.

The service of a honey bee colony is far shorter than 30 years ago, and the maintenance to keep them healthy and happy is harder to do, he said.

“With all these diseases, if you fail to look after them, (you lose them.) It’s become far more complex animal husbandry than it was,” van Westendorp said.

READ MORE: Pesticides linked to bee deaths will be phased out in Canada, sources say

READ MORE: The search for an effective way to save honeybees

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