Can we talk about Bee’s for a moment?

My Plum tree’s are in full bloom.. so many other things in bloom as well.. including creeping Charlie and the Violets, the wild strawberries and of course all the currents.

But there is something missing this year.. Bee’s.. Where are my bee’s? I normally have a number of native bees that call my farm home, I have lots of bumble bee’s and I make a huge effort to plant, and allow to bloom for bee feeding in all three season’s, spring, summer and fall pollen harvesting.  Nothing has been sprayed in the farmers fields yet, which always if there is drift does a reduction of my bee’s..

I have carefully not bothered my squash bee’s overwintering grounds, I left my leaves and habit over the fall and well into late spring so that I would give them their needed home and protection.. many of the native bees overwinter under leaf litter in the ground.

However it does not seem to matter this spring.. the flowers are blooming, the fruit tree’s are blooming but on any given day, if I am lucky, I might see one to four bees.. mostly native smaller or the odd bumble bee. On good years, I can hear the hum of the bee’s as I walk up.. this year its silent..

Depending on what I am working with, I am either using a tiny fluffy bush to gather and move pollen around or I am using feathers..  I am going to need to order in more native bees for the farm to rebuild the population and see what the rest of the garden season brings.

Not just on my farm this year.. It would appear that its been a very hard winter-spring on the honey bee’s and keepers both in my own province and across Canada as well.

How are the bee’s looking in your local area?

“Canadian beekeepers are expressing concern about the effects of poor weather on their colonies, with the president of the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association describing the level of dead or ailing ones as “astounding.”

“It’s quite discouraging and demoralizing for beekeepers,” Jim Coneybeare, 55, said in a phone interview Monday.

An association survey of almost 900 Ontario beekeepers indicated that 70 per cent suffered unsustainable losses this past winter.

“I’ve been getting calls from beekeepers around the province,” said Coneybeare, who lives in Fergus, Ont.

“The number of dead or weak colonies is astounding. These could be the worst winter losses on record.”

That’s bad news not only for beekeepers, but for vegetable and fruit growers who depend on bees for pollination.

More than 40 per cent said the recent long, cold winter that extended into spring was the main reason for the heavy losses.

“Pollen from the trees usually comes at the end of March, beginning of April, (but) nobody saw that until the end of April, beginning of May, so a lot of our pollen was delayed,” Coneybeare said.

The third-generation beekeeper explained that an abundance of pollen and nectar leads queen bees to raise a lot of young bees, but that production of the brood is cut back if there is not enough.

Coneybeare, who said Ontario has more than 3,000 beekeepers, noted that plants want sunshine and temperatures of around 25 C and that they don’t yield pollen and nectar if it’s 18 C and cloudy.

“And then there’s still certain areas where we see certain problems with pesticides,” he added.   The association has asked the Ontario government for financial assistance to allow beekeepers to recover and rebuild their colonies.

Coneybeare doubts the problem will affect the price of honey in stores, but fruits and vegetable prices could feel the impact.”



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30 Responses to Can we talk about Bee’s for a moment?

  1. Christine says:

    It was a hard winter for bees in our area, too. The Tennessee state apiarist sent out a letter in April estimating overwinter losses of 80% in our area:

    “Loses over the past year have been unusually high. Loses started last fall with queen failure from late August through the spring, tracheal mites over winter, high Varroa infestations transmitting viruses all combined to result in approximately an 80% statewide overwinter loss. Loss were higher in the Upper East region and lower in the West region.”

  2. valbjerke says:

    I don’t think it was that great around here either – mind you, people post about their losses, not many post if their bees made it through. Our spring was very delayed as well.

    • Hi Valbjerke.. I am member of both the Ontario beekeeper group and the local Ottawa valley group and what I keep hearing is that even if they made the winter, they are very weak hives.. They made it though but they are not healthy at this point.. even with the keepers feeding them..

      • valbjerke says:

        I’m just new to beekeeping this year… packaged bees arrived with mites, I’m already treating for them (this was a surprise). My hubby built me a ‘bee bunker’ where I keep all my stuff and I intend to bring them in for the winter – we’d like to keep the temps and humidity stable in the hope they come through the winter strong. We get some pretty wild fluctuations in temps near the end of winter. Having never kept bees before I’m keeping written records of everything I can think of…’s hoping I do okay.

      • Hi Valbjerke.. congrats on becoming a beekeeper.. I can imagine that it will be a learning curve not just for the bee’s but learning how to work with them in your own area. Sounds like you are doing your research. Best of luck.. sorry about the mites coming with the bee’s.

      • Hi Val B, is it normal in your area to overwinter your hives “indoors”?

      • valbjerke says:

        No….it’s just something I’m going to try – we get some pretty wild temperature swings. In the prairies it’s more common I think. One fellow I know used to send his bees south for the winter. I just think if I can control the winter environment- they should come through a little stronger? Guess I’ll find out 😊

      • Mmm, poor ventilation and subsequent accumulated moisture are actually the biggest enemy of bee hives. You may want to consult with members of your local Beekeepers’ Association to get some ideas? (And, oldest joke about brainstorming a question after meetings is you’ll probably get more suggestions than there are members; )

    • Hey Val B: ) Check with your Provincial Apiarist, to find out for sure. (Most likely they do the same thing in BC as here in Ontario?)

  3. Penny says:

    Yep – we lost both our hives just southwest of Ottawa as did many others. However, I do have a friend that had 9 of 10 come through. I’m so happy for her because she’s a small (part-time, if that’s possible!) farmer.

    This late spring doesn’t help but don’t even get me started on the MINOR modifications the corn/soybean farmers were forced make to keep growing their chemically treated crops. And it’s a catch 22. Most smaller farms (and I’m not talking the tiny specialized organic/CSA growers) MUST grow these chemically treated cash crops to stay afloat! But even some of the local CSA farmers are in the same position. To grow vegetables for local markets, some more of their revenue comes from fields and fields of annually rotated corn and soybeans.

    I’m sad for our honeybee loss, but the real tragedy is the world wide loss of native bees. When will they hit the endangered species lists? Amazing homesteaders (like yourselves), CSA growers and rural and urban gardeners are doing all we can. Clearly, it’s not enough!

    • I hear you on the very small steps that have been taken when it comes to neonics and the bee’s.. I am grateful for my local farmer, he tries to keep his overspray to a limit because he knows that it does effect my land and we have had talks about it and my bees. Still I understand that at this point in his farming, he is going to use both the treated seed and the sprays, I had so many more bee’s when the closest field was in hay.. now the hay fields are further from the farm.. still within easy bee flight zone but not when you have to go over the treated field to get there..

      Sorry to hear about your hives but glad to here about your friends.. I will keep planting, keep trying..

      • NeoNics are systemic toxins. Whether they’re applied to agricultural seed like corn and soy; or the plants you buy from the greenhouse, EVERY PART of the plant grown from that seed (or sprayed/watered with the product) also becomes poisonous: starting at the root and right on up to the flower, pollen and nectar.
        Because they’re fat soluble, NeoNics accumulate in wax in the honey bee hives. Because no one’s doing any testing on wild bee species, I’m assuming they’re also being affected in the same way – as are any subsequent species up the food chain who eat them.
        Remember DDT? The level required for accumulated NeoNics to be toxic over time are minuscule in comparison.

    • Sadly Penny, farmers have been brainwashed into believing that genetically modified/ treated seed is the only way. Fighting with Mother Nature is a losing game. She will always find a way to outsmart technology and always more quickly than we can invent another “solution”. Just take a look at farmer’s fields… With the “Low Till/No Till” farming, RoundUp resistant plants are everywhere. Unfortunately, plants like Milkweed which feed pollinators aren’t usually so lucky.

    • What kills honey bees is killing all Pollinators, there’s just no beekeeper there to notice.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Well south of you in Southeast U.S. but we had a warm-up in February (like, 60s-70s, for weeks) and then deep cold later than usual (20s in late April). I had some concerns about the insects and the buds that started coming up.

    We had a low load of bee-bees last year and fewer colorful butterflies, and this year seems to be going the same – way more brown wasps than bees, but not even as many brown wasps cruising the big clover-covered dog lawns as in years past.

    Of course, it’s also 90s in May (that’s July weather) and our few rains have barely dampened the surface, not even soaking a half inch down so far this month.
    Last year it was seeds drowning, trees coming loose in wind storms from the inundated soils, and crop lots and hay fields nobody could get into for the mud, this year all kinds of stuff is spring straight to flower and seed. *sigh*
    Abnormal is the new norm I guess. 🙂 Although, truth be told, anytime we have a really, really wet year or a really, really, really dry year, I tend to expect the opposite to follow. Just miss being able to look at the 7, 12 and 30 year history sheets to get some idea of what’s up.

    • Rebecca says:

      I should add the bright spot in my life: No seeums be bitin’, but I have not yet started getting the incredible swelling horrors from mosquitoes yet this year. I can actually wear short sleeves and lightweight long sleeves in 90-degree weather without something biting me through them! Woot-woot – this is big in my life!

    • Yup.. I told Jason that if it followed pattern that with the floods last year, that we would have drought this year.. but I did expect more spring rains then this.. I am watching my pond dry up daily.. the slew is already dry.. sigh.. Sounds like a perfect storm this winter.. so dry.. and so hot..

      • Rebecca says:

        I’m kind of bracing for an obnoxious slug year, too. I left the native lawn stretches over winter and have been selective about my assault on the invasive privet, but I’m not seeing many lightning bugs. I use leaf mulches around borders and on some of the fruits (without making leaf mold) and I use cardboard as an exclusion under some of the wood chips and grass cutting mulches.

        I’m worried that maybe between the warm-up and maybe some of the beds I reclaimed over the winter were the main firefly grounds, and too many got killed off.
        I don’t know if it’ll be this year or next year, that it’s really bad, but I’m seeing a lot more of the teeny-tiny slugs – not so many extra snails this year, but more of the teeny-weenie slugs. Fingers crossed that the microscope wolf packs are just stunted or delayed or something, and are coming in to eat the elk. Fingers really crossed that they’ll

        Plus, I miss having them blink at night just like I miss having those big ol’ buzz-buzzes all charming and goofy and friendly as I work in the yard during the day. (And I feel bad when I see only one place where they’re blinking out a particular pattern and tone/shade, but I also hate seeing those lone hawks or that goose wandering around looking stunned somewhere it really shouldn’t be on the ground or lingering – I want everybody to have their mate and friends.)

      • I hear ya, I am leaving a section of my food forest wild just for the lighting bugs.. I will cut it but only once or twice max and leave it pretty long. I moved some logs and so many slugs, put the logs to be cleaned up by the duck and chickens.. yummy treat.. but its not a good sign here either.

  5. Here in the Kootenays (Southern Interior of BC) I am seeing shocking fewer pollinators over the last few years. Disturbing.

    • hi Crafty.. I have heard that they are needing to bring in the mobile bee’s into B.C. for pollination.. I agree.. it is disturbing..

      • Val, please read the OBA (Ontario Beekeepers Ass’n report I included with my (first) comment. Every year Ontario Beekeepers report back to OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Food & Rural Affairs) on the health and status of their Honey Bee hives after the winter. The results this year are overwhelmingly, unsustainably negative.
        There aren’t enough hives left or, of those that did survive, they aren’t strong enough to split to create more hives, never mind packing them up to haul around the country-side for pollination. We. Are. In. VERY SERIOUS TROUBLE.

  6. Widdershins says:

    Not many of them here yet even in the Lower Mainland. I’m hoping it’s just the slow start to the season. 😦

  7. Left this on your FB version and repeating it here as well.
    What affects one Pollinator, affects them all; whether they’re bees, birds, bats or moths! It’s time to follow the action of the European Union and ban all NeoNics (systemic, neurotoxic NeoNicotinoid Insecticides. And please, while you have the opportunity to get an answer, be sure to ask your local political Candidates about their position on Pollinator Losses and NeoNics.
    Here’s the Ontario Beekeeper’s Ass’n newsletter released this week:

  8. Lisa Lynn says:

    We seem to have quite a few honey bees around this spring, and some native bees. They are doing better than a few years ago, in our area of the northern central US. I hope your bee population is ok.

    • Thanks so much for letting me know that they are doing well in your neck of the woods. I will see what the year brings but I am also being proactive and will order in a number of native bee coons and build more native bee hotels and help increase my numbers..

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