Vernon Planet Bee owner and beekeeper Ed Nowek has lost about three per cent of his colonies over the winter but said he’s not out of the woods yet. (Morning Star - file photo).

‘Bee survival is too variable to predict’: Vernon 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

Cirque-inspired Nutcracker sleigh rides into outdoor Armstrong theatre

Caravan Farm Theatre stages unique re-imaginging of beloved Christmas classic

Vernon Realty group’s annual coat drive a success

Some of city’s most vulnerable to stay a bit warmer this winter

Vernon’s 2020 Tattoo planning begins

The Okanagan Military Tattoo, Vernon’s largest indoor event, will run July 25-26 at Kal Tire Place

Missing Okanagan teens believed to be in Armstrong

Young couple was reported missing last week

Okanagan gymnasts light the stage with original production

The Light Keeper fuses drama, dance, music, circus arts, gymnastics and more

Cold, stormy winter forecast across much of Canada, The Weather Network predicts

In British Columbia temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be just below normal

Duncan man gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty trial

Joe also gets lifetime ban on owning animals

B.C. pushes for greater ‘transparency’ in gasoline pricing

Legislation responds to fuel price gap of up to 13 cents

B.C. woman ordered to return dog to ex-boyfriend for $2,000

After the two broke up, documents state, they agree to share custody of the dog, named Harlen

B.C. petition calls for seat belts in new school buses

Agassiz bus driver collects 124,000 signatures in support

Kamloops woman fatally hit by truck was a TRU employee

The investigation into the Nov. 15 pedestrian fatality near Thompson Rivers University continues

Accused Lake Country wife-killer going to trial more than three years later

Lambertus Westervelt, 63, was charged in April 2019 for allegedly killing his wife in June 2016

Nineteen boats carrying invasive mussels stopped at B.C. borders

Waters of Columbia-Shuswap still test mussel-free

Sicamous’ second cannabis store set to open

Sicamous Trading Company designed to fit with community’s love for nature and adventure

Most Read