When the water came, Hendrik Greidanus had no time to react.
The water on the Highwood and Bow rivers and smaller creeks near where his hives were located, rose so quickly, there was no time to move his hives to higher ground.
“The water came up so fast,” said Greidanus, who estimated he saved 100 hives before the water rose too far.
The southern Alberta beekeeper is now trying to rebuild. He knows at least 300 hives were washed away, but he can’t get to another 50 hives because roads are washed out or it’s too wet to get to them.
“The speed the water came in, it was impossible to plan for it,” he said.
Greidanus knew they were in trouble when water from the Highwood River was lapping at the driveway of his parent’s farm just before 8 a.m. June 20.
The family normally uses big trucks and special forklifts to move the hives loaded with honey, but it was too wet to get in anything but a small truck. Instead, they loaded the hives by hand, strapped them down and unloaded them on higher ground.
“They were very heavy,” he said.
The water drowned any bees found in recovered boxes, and the boxes were full of silt and dirt.
“I can’t melt the wax down because there is so much silt and it would destroy my equipment,” he said.
It will be an expensive hit for the family. Greidanus imported bees from New Zealand to replace bees lost over winter. As well, there is the cost of lost queens, equipment and lost production from the hives.
“We’ve lost a huge amount of money.”
The family is working with their insurance adjuster to what is covered by insurance.
About 150 to 250 millimetres of water covered the floor of the extraction plant. It didn’t ruin equipment but left layers of silt when the water receded.