‘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

Okanagan-Shuswap Weather: Most long-weekend rain has already fallen

A mix of sun and cloud is expected for the last two days of the the Victoria Day weekend.

Update: Mother dead, youth in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Sandy Point Campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Penticton Indian Band councillor trying for federal seat

Joan Phillip acclaimed as NDP candidate for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola

Former Greyhound bus drivers gather in the Okanagan for one last hurrah

Bash kicks off Friday in Penticton and runs until Sunday

Some South Okanagan students are $1,000 richer

Million Dollar Bursary Program offers bursaries each year to Interior Savings’ young members

Weather holds up for Rutland May Days

60th annual May Day midway, market and entertainment saw hundreds of attendees

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

South Okanagan runners take top spots in Peach City RunFest

Both the top male and female half-marathon winners were from Penticton

Former Greyhound Canada employees gather in Okanagan to say a final farewell

“Greyhound may take our jobs but they will never take our friendships,” says former bus driver

Kelowna firefighters douse blaze in hedges

The cause of the fire on Renfrew Road is under investigation.

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

Okanagan Springtime Regatta draws more than 50 sailboats

Sailors treated to windy, excellent long weekend conditions on Okanagan Lake in Kelowna

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Most Read