'Wiped out' southwestern Ontario beekeepers in recovery mode after big winter losses
Infestation of varroa mites caused large numbers of bees to die off over the winter
Beekeepers in southwestern Ontario have a tough year ahead as they recover from big losses in their colonies over the winter.
"Previous years we've been able to deal with it, but last winter it just created a lot more havoc with the bees," said Darryl Walker, owner of Anderdon Bee Co.
He said a big reason for the winter losses is an infestation of varroa mites, brought on by an early spring last season. The parasitic mites weaken the bees and causes a higher number of losses through the winter than usual. It's something being felt provincewide.
Walker said he normally loses about five or six per cent during winters, but this year, he lost 40 per cent. Walker said that equated to about 60 hives in his colony, each containing about 50,000 bees.
"It's going to be a multi-year event to replenish all these bees that were lost."
Walker said is spending money to rebuild using nucleus hives, colloquially known as nucs, to revive his stocks.
"Our hives that survive that are strong, we'll take bees from those hives and then put them into smaller boxes... then we introduce a queen to them."
I don't think any one beekeeper hasn't been affected this year.- Guy Langevin, beekeeper
He said that due to the rebuilding effort, the honey production that would normally start in July likely won't begin until August.
"We'll have a loss this year for sure because of it," Walker said.
Walker said he imports the queens from Australia to start the new hives, adding that many other beekeepers who had surviving bees have been coming by to buy queens from him as they are trying to recover as well.
'A loss position'
In Sarnia-Lambton, losses range much higher than those Walker faced.
"I don't think any one beekeeper hasn't been affected this year," beekeeper Guy Langevin said.
- Researchers record first-ever Canadian sighting of bee species in Windsor park
- Ontario beekeepers report 'heartbreaking' colony losses due to varroa mites
Langevin runs the Sarnia Bee Group, a Facebook page that promotes beekeeping and the health of bees. He said there are about 150 people signed up, everybody from casual beekeepers to medium- and large-scale producers.
He said his hives saw a 60 per cent decline over the winter, but some saw up to an 80 per cent loss and others lost even more.
"A lot of hobbyists have lost all their hives, so 100 per cent wipe out," he said.
Langevin said the larger honey producers will spend a lot of the year rebuilding their hives instead of producing, and that will mean a big financial hit.
"Wiped out," he said. "Most beekeepers will be in a loss position... their production of honey is pretty much decimated."