PEI

42 per cent of P.E.I.'s bees died last winter. Here's why

P.E.I.'s provincial apiarist says unpredictable winter weather took a toll on the Island's bee population.

'It [was] going above and below zero constantly'

Provincial apiarist Cameron Menzies surveyed beekpeers who manage most of P.E.I.'s 7,000 beehives to reach his conclusions. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Unpredictable winter weather has taken a toll on the Island's bee population, says provincial apiarist Cameron Menzies.

Over the winter more than 42 per cent of P.E.I. beehives died for the second straight year, Menzies said — most winters, that number is closer to 20 per cent.

"It's a very unpredictable climate here. It's going below and above zero constantly, so when it gets above zero, bees might exit their hives and begin to attempt to forage — but then it'll get cold quickly and that'll sort of shock them," the beekeeper said.

The inconsistent temperatures continued into the spring and even early summer, and that hasn't helped the bee population either.

"This up-and-down weather in the spring does not make it any easier for them," said Menzies.

Possible fall workshops

There could be less honey this year as a result, Menzies said.

'When it gets above zero, bees might exit their hives and begin to attempt to forage, but then it'll get cold quickly and that'll sort of shock them,' says Menzies. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

All 4,000 remaining Island hives were rented this year for blueberry pollination, Menzies said, and up to another 2,000 have been brought in from Ontario.

The Department of Agriculture may hold workshops in the fall to help beekeepers improve the strength of their hives before winter, said Menzies.

"It's the work you do in the fall that really counts," he said. "You have to make sure you're keeping disease and pest levels down and also making sure they have enough feed so there's a good strong population with enough food to get through the winter," Menzies said. 

Menzies surveyed beekeepers across the Island to reach his conclusions. Island beekeepers kept a total of about 7,000 hives last winter, he said. 

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With files from Laura Chapin

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