This summer is expected to be a sweet season for beekeepers across New Brunswick, despite COVID-19, although the pandemic created a little trouble early on.
"We have so much honey, we don't know what to do with it anymore," said Catherine Hachey, assistant beekeeper at Honey House in the northern New Brunswick village of Charlo.
The honey season has been buzzing and customers are still purchasing the sweet treat, but Hachey said she hasn't seen as many tourists visiting the 350 bee hives to see how honey is made.
"In the Atlantic bubble, no one came north," she said. "They're more interested in Moncton and Saint John."
Typically, the honey business sees visitors from Quebec and Ontario, but because of the border closures, tourism has been slow.
Hachey is hoping for more tourists next year.
"You can't have everything," she said. "Last year it was good with tourists but not good with honey production."
A delayed season
Ryan Golden, vice-president of the New Brunswick Beekeepers Association, said COVID-19 didn't have much impact on the honeybee industry, except in the spring when beekeepers split hives between blueberry farmers to maintain the number of colonies.
Over the winter, about 25 per cent of a beekeepers' hives will die from the cold weather, said Golden, who is also the owner of Maple Lane Apiary. There are about 400 hives on his farm in Norton, almost 60 kilometres northeast of Saint John.
"We need [blueberry farmers] for financial support and they need us because our bees do such a good [job] pollinating blueberries."
Since it's still too early to raise a queen bee in the hive, beekeepers buy them from California, Hawaii and sometimes Ontario because of warmer temperatures.
Queen bees serve as the main reproducer in the hive.
But it was harder to get those bees to New Brunswick this past spring, because of border closures. And there was no guarantee they would even be alive once they arrived.
"A lot of guys couldn't actually grow their numbers because they couldn't get queens early enough," Golden said.
This means they have to wait until temperatures warm up to make their honey. The season runs from May until October.
Harder to get COVID alone in a field
There are about 13,000 bee colonies in New Brunswick.
For the most part, beekeepers across New Brunswick have been happy with the weather over the past few weeks, with a combination of the perfect amount of sunshine and early morning mist on flowers, which produces more nectar for bees.
"The nice thing about being a beekeeper is we don't associate with a lot of people anyway," Golden said.
"You're pretty much on your own in the field."