The health of managed colonies of western honey bees (Apis mellifera) is a topic of international concern given the importance of honey bees. In fact, over 75% of all edible fruits and vegetables require pollination by wild and managed colonies of bees.
This is why writing this particular blog breaks our hearts – and why everyone should be concerned.
Nearly half of Canada's honeybee colonies didn't survive the winter, the largest rate of colony loss in the country in the last 20 years, according to preliminary data.
Many factors can lead to the deaths of bees, but the main factor behind the losses is the varroa mite(1) — a parasitic bug that attacks and feeds on bees. Varroa mites are usually kept under control, but climate change has made traditional beekeeping practices ineffective.
The Canadian Prairies usually experience long, cold winters and dry, warm summers, preceded by consistent spring rains. The transition from winter to spring is usually quick and defined, allowing beekeepers to tend to hives early in the spring, and allow their bees to forage and pollinate as soon as flowers start to blossom. But the past few years have been different – and the start of 2022 was a disaster.
Problem number one: The 2021 spring was short with bursts of rain. The summer was searing hot and one of the driest on record. Dry and hot summer weather makes it more difficult to tend to the hives and keep the bees healthy. Furthermore, when plants are drought-stressed, they actually don’t produce as much nectar or pollen, and that leaves less resource for bees to actually collect and then bring back and then store for their winter survival and also to feed their young(2).
Problem number two: The transition from winter to spring was slow, with the temperature varying from below freezing to unseasonably warm. The temperature variations caused bees to stay in their winterized hives longer than usual, while providing the perfect conditions for an explosion in varroa mite populations.(3)
All these factors have affected greatly the situation of the Canadian Beekeepers, who experienced some pretty severe losses. Typically, colony losses range between 10-15% per year. By comparison, 2022 saw losses of about 30-45% in the Prairies, with some losses up to 60% in Quebec.
Beekeepers and government are working hard to solve this situation and find solutions for our beloved bees and we are right there with them – every jar of Elias Honey that is sold funds local apiaries, beekeepers and supply chains. We pride ourselves on supporting beekeepers all across Canada.
- (1) http://worldhoneybeehealth.com/
- (2) https://www.bangordailynews.com/2022/08/16/news/maine-bees-drought/
- (3) https://www.bangordailynews.com/2022/08/16/news/maine-bees-drought/