File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Small loss for Kelowna bee farmer due to cold snap

Bob Chisholm, with Brainy Bee in Kelowna, said he’s lost about 20 per cent of his bees

A Kelowna bee farmer’s hives are relievedly happy and healthy for the spring season.

Bob Chisholm, with Brainy Bee in Kelowna, said he’s experienced a 20 per cent loss, about five per cent more than a usual year.

“We can recover from that, absolutely,” he said.

The honey bees were put to bed at the end of October, and he expects the extra five per cent loss is because of a warmer winter, with the honey bees eating more of their food source, followed by February’s cold snap.

Chisholm has 175 hives. To lose a hive means $450 in losses to replace just the bees.

During an Okanagan bee farmer’s meeting held in mid-March, bee keepers said they haven’t experienced a significant loss, compared to come farmers in the Lower Mainland.

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.

Another bee keeper’s in the Vernon area, Ed Nowek at Planet Bee, also experienced an average loss of bees this season, about 10 to 15 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.

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

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.

This weekend, an event hosted by Kelowna Museums and Border Free Bees, will allow the public to build mason bee houses for their gardens.

People can drop in at the Laurel Packing House anytime between 1 and 3:30 p.m. on March 30 to build a home for mason bees. The event is free, but participants should bring a clean one-litre, cardboard milk carton. They will be able to take home their DIY bee house to place in their garden or yard.

At 2 p.m., volunteers with Border Free Bees will give a 15-minute talk about native pollinators and explain why they are important and how people can help protect the species. Participants will also get pointers about the care of mason bees and watch a demonstration by The Men’s Shed on different ways to create wooden mason bee houses.

— With files from Roger Knox/Morning Star

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carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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