Hi all, Curtis here with an update from the beeyard. Bear with me, this post will be a longer one. As many of you know, beekeepers in Ontario had a disastrous loss over winter and spring, and my apiary was no exception.
I serve on the board of our local beekeepers guild and our members survey indicated a 65% loss. The Vice President of The Ontario Beekeepers Association was the guest speaker at our meeting last week and he confirmed that our losses across the province equally include commercial and small scale/hobbyist beekeepers.
Although varroa mites have been largely reported in the media as one of the main causes, there is no confirmation of this. My own colonies were monitored continually for varroa through the season and mite levels were well controlled going into late fall, so I also have my doubts whether this was the main/only cause. I suspect it’s a combination of several factors including climate change, enviro issues, pesticides and neonicotinoids predominantly used in our corn and soy crops, as well as varroa. Queen health is a big factor too - when I started beekeeping, queens had a life expectancy of 3-5 years. Now it’s 1-2 years at best. We need to do more to protect our environment and pollinators.
Now to the good news. Although I seriously considered hanging up the veil after twelve years, we’re building back the yard with the generous help of family, friends and supporters. Thanks SO much to those of you who donated, purchased presales of honey, or simply sent words of support. Mostly, thank you for your continued interest in the honey bees.
There are four nucs on order and the first two should be ready to be picked up in a week or so from a long time friend/mentor and trusted beekeeper. The queens are Melita Carniolan, imported from Italy and bred for their productivity, gentleness and good overwintering capacity. They were installed in their nucs recently and are settling in nicely. This means they’ll have a decent head start on summer.
The other two nucs on order have local queens that were grafted from eggs a week or so ago and are being raised by another longtime beekeeper friend who supplies queens and nucs. We took a queen rearing course together a few years ago to learn how to graft (removing freshly laid eggs and placing them into a special built queen-raising cell) and she’s been raising queens since. Her own losses were significant so these two nucs won’t be ready until late June after the queens are raised, finished their mating flights and laying eggs/raising brood.
There’s a bit of an exodus of both commercial and hobbiest beekeepers in Ontario this year because of all the losses, and bees will likely continue to be in short supply.
Thanks for reading if you got this far, I’ll post another next update when we pick up the nucs.