Prince Edward Island beekeepers remain optimistic about massive bee mortality across the country

Prince Edward Island beekeepers are approaching their busy season with a positive attitude, even though the cold weather has dragged on and there have been mass bee deaths elsewhere in the country.

Hives are emerging after what has been a cold spring for the island, meaning honey farms are behind their usual schedule, according to PEI Beekeepers Association President Troy Fraser.

“Mother Nature dictates everything,” Fraser said. “We’re just waiting for the dandelions to appear and that way the bees can start foraging more actively and the queen can start laying eggs and things can really get started.”

While most beekeepers expect to lose some of their bees during the colder months of the year, 2022 has turned out to be particularly bad.

Beekeepers in other parts of Canada, particularly in the West, have reported massive bee population losses, with some saying the industry is set to lose hundreds of millions of dollars this year due to of a huge drop in the bee population.

Fraser said beekeepers on Prince Edward Island also suffered some of those losses.

“The current bee loss situation has affected everyone to some degree, myself a bit more than others,” he said.

“However, that’s…something that happens with beekeeping. You have to bounce back.”

There have been significant deaths across the country. (Submitted by Ramin Abdollahi)

Fraser wouldn’t say how many bees he lost, but beekeepers in other parts of Canada told CBC News they’ve lost up to 90% of their hives this winter.

“It will get better”

But, despite the losses, Fraser is looking to expand and has recently acquired more than 100 settlements in Nova Scotia.

Other beekeepers say they are even more optimistic.

Canoe Cove Honey beekeeper Mickael Jauneau said his company was “pretty lucky” not to have lost many hives this winter.

“It’s kind of like an average year for us,” he said. “Spring was very cold. But it looks like it’s going to get better and better. So we’re crossing our fingers for a good season.”

Jauneau said beekeepers now have to make an effort to finish their work due to the cold spring weather.

“Today the weather is really nice and warm and the bees must be flying like crazy, but [things are] a week or two behind last year. So it’s usually easier when it’s warmer earlier.”

“It’s just the nature of it”

Todd Dyment recently completed an online beekeeping course and said he could turn his interest into “a bit of a business” once he has his bees in July.

He said hearing about all the mass deaths gave him pause as a rookie, but he said this sort of thing was normal in the profession.

“When we were doing the course, one of the sessions was about diseases and pests you have to try to manage, and that was quite daunting,” he said.

“There are a lot of things to watch out for when you keep bees. But I’m always excited.”

Meanwhile, awareness campaigns about the plight of bees have begun to roll out in some communities on the island. Last week, Stratford handed out lawn signs encouraging people to feed bees by planting gardens.

“It’s good to know that people are out there supporting this effort and putting up signs in their yards,” Fraser said.

“Maybe that’s a good excuse not to mow the lawn in May and… sit back and just enjoy the grass and whatever else comes up with us.”

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