PEI

'It doesn't concern me': P.E.I. beekeeper says populations are OK

Dave MacNearney, chair of the PEI beekeepers association, says Islanders shouldn't hit the panic button on bees after the province's 42 per cent winter loss.

Dave MacNearney, chair of the PEI association, says 'bee numbers can recover very quickly'

Dave MacNearney, chair of the P.E.I. Beekeeper's Association, says Islanders shouldn't be concerned about the drop in bee populations.

P.E.I. had the highest percentage of winter loss of bees in the country this year, but Dave MacNearney, chair of the P.E.I. Beekeeper's Association, says the bees are just fine.

According to a statement by the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturalists, the national average loss of hives was about 25 per cent, while losses in P.E.I. were almost 42 per cent.

But Islanders shouldn't hit the panic button on bees just yet, MacNearney said, because "bee numbers have never really been higher in North America."

'We're just a drop in the bucket'

"It doesn't concern me because I think it's a statistical anomaly," he said. 

You hear about colony collapse disorder, beepocalypse, it's kind of a media sensation— Dave MacNearney

P.E.I. has between 10,000 and 15,000 hives, MacNearney said, and the small sample size compared to other provinces can make things seem more alarming.

"A bad winter affecting one of our bigger beekeepers can kinda skew the numbers and make the whole province look bad when really we're just a drop in the bucket in the scheme of things."

'Spring dwindle'

MacNearney and the beekeeper's association, which has about 30 commercial and hobby members, call the winter losses a "spring dwindle."

The term comes from the process of spring weather being unco-operative for the bee populations.

"It's not warm so they can't get out and forage, the older bees are dying faster than they can produce new bees because they need to keep the hive warm and if the weather doesn't cooperate they can't do that," he said.

Even with a high number of hives lost over the winter, MacNearney said the bees will bounce back.

The demonstration beehives behind the Farm Centre in Charlottetown are buzzing once more. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

"Bee numbers can recover very quickly. You hear about colony collapse disorder, beepocalypse, it's kind of a media sensation."

There isn't much to be done, he added, other than hope for good weather and for the bees to replenished their populations.

Unless Islanders want to winter bees in their basement, that is.

"You could kind of convert warehouses to winter bees in and control the environment and not rely on mother nature," said MacNearney.

"That's the old model of beekeeping, people used to keep them in their basement along with the turnip."

With files from Laura Chapin

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