Bee Colony health a major concern for Alberta beekeepers
By Tim Kalinowski
The Alberta beekeeping industry might be starting to turn a corner, says Alberta Beekeepers’ Commission president Mike deJong, despite facing lingering challenges due to lower honey prices in that past year.
“Are they the best prices right now? No. But they are starting to recover, and that’s good. It is definitely a lot better than it was last year. It’s been pretty steady this year. We had a nice quality honey crop. I would say we are just below the cost of production right now. We are close to cost, but we are still a little bit below.”
Colony health is another story entirely, says deJong, and probably represents the single biggest threat to the Alberta honey industry.
“The bees came out of winter last year a bit weaker, and it was difficult to recover your losses,” he says. “When winter is going on longer, with those weaker hives, they die. We had to fight the weather all the way through summer. In the south they wintered pretty good, but then they got droughted out. If you get a terrible March or terrible April, that’s when the bees are trying to get started for the next year. If they get run over by a cold climate, they go backwards very fast.”
So far this winter, despite being colder overall, there has been enough warm breaks to give the bees some relief. He is hopeful for a good spring, but colony health across the province remains fragile. A situation aggravated by ongoing verroa mite infections.
“As a whole Alberta, for beekeepers, the big thing right now is verroa mites,” he confirms. “Our pesticides we used for that are becoming ineffective, and we don’t have another solid chemical control in place yet. You have soft controls which are organic controls and hard controls which are pesticides. It just depends on what you use for that year. But we have yet to have a new chemical approved which is a silver bullet. And we know our situation is getting worse.”