Beekeepers report fewer winter losses

Bee colony losses may be lower than usual this year across Western Canada, if early reports are correct.

Mark Friesen, a beekeeper from Morden, Man., said his winter and spring losses will likely be less than 10 percent. Beekeepers in other parts of the Prairies are reporting similar results.

“It’s all of the Western Canada right now. Every guy I’ve talked to has said winter losses are nominal,” said Friesen, a director with the Manitoba Beekeepers Association.

“It’s good to see that the bees are coming out really strong.”

Last year, the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists reported winter losses of 18 to 19 percent in Alberta and Saskatchewan and 24 percent for Manitoba.

Winter losses are defined as bee colonies that are too weak or with too few bees for commercial production.

Medhat Nasr, provincial apiculturist in Alberta, said losses in the province would likely be less than 15 percent. He attributed the lower losses to good beekeeping practices, such as controlling varroa mites and providing sufficient food stores for the bees.

“It’s better management and a good winter,” he said.

“The last part of the winter was nice so the bees began brooding early. So there’s a population build up.”

Jorden Proctor, an apiarist from Langham, Sask., and vice-president of the Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association, said he lost 10 percent of his hives over the winter.

Last year’s chilly spring weather was particularly hard on bees, he said.

“We weren’t a disaster last year, but the (losses) were much higher.

“Things looked good at the start, but spring last year, we didn’t have one. So there was a lot of (bee population) dwindle…. The first thing to bloom around here seemed to be the canola.”

The Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists usually re-leases official estimates of colony losses in July.

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