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CBC: A honey of a problem: Manitoba apiaries work to recover from huge winter losses

August 8, 2022 — 

As CBC Manitoba reports:

Mike Clark stands amid his nearly empty bee hives, hoping that his apiary, which has been raising honeybees since the First World War, can come back from a brutal winter that has ravaged bee colonies across the country — and Manitoba hardest of all.

“Other guys are in production right now to extract honey, and I’m not seeing that we will produce any honey this year,” Clark said.

“We’re hoping that they do make the winter this year. If we do have another heavy loss, it will be the nail in the coffin … that our business won’t be here.”

In a typical August, Clark Apiary in Wawanesa, Man., about 200 kilometres west of Winnipeg, would be a-buzz with bees creating honey. This year the space is quieter as the farm focuses on rebuilding its devastated bee population.

…The 2022 season has been “been a pretty devastating year for beekeepers” in Manitoba and across Canada, says Jason Gibbs, associate professor of entomology at the University of Manitoba.

Bee losses are in the 40 per cent range for parts of the country, he says, but Manitoba’s figure sits at about 57 per cent. 

Bee levels are struggling for several reasons, he says, including the varroa mite, an invasive parasite.

“It’s a really large mite in relation to their body size, and left unmanaged it will just decimate, you know, 95 per cent of colonies,” Gibbs said. “Beekeepers have to sort of regularly keep on top of those … [to] keep the levels under control. And if they don’t, then they’re going to get high losses.”

However, Gibbs believes beekeepers should be able to rebuild their hives as long as the elements co-operate. He says most should be able to recover from the losses within a year or two.

Importing bees could be a possible solution for regrowth, but it is not without its challenges, Gibbs says, including restrictions designed to prevent the spread of pathogens and pests arriving from outside Canada.

Read the full CBC story here.


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