Honey bees doing well in south, not so much in north, beekeeper says

·2 min read
Honey bees are faring well in the south thanks to a short period of cold spring weather. More cold weather in the north means bees did not do so well in that area. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images - image credit)
Honey bees are faring well in the south thanks to a short period of cold spring weather. More cold weather in the north means bees did not do so well in that area. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images - image credit)

When opening their hives after the winter, and a wet spring, beekeepers in the southern New Brunswick were pleasantly surprised, but those in the north were devastated.

"I was flabbergasted, they were doing just fine right now," said Paul Vautour, a beekeeper in the Irishtown area north of Moncton.

He was feeding his bees sugar syrup to stimulate them in early spring but was concerned about the long spell of wet spring weather that could have threatened their eggs and young larvae.

Vautour said a critical time for bees is what's called the "spring turnover" period. It's the time between winter and spring, when eggs have been laid and not hatched. If a cold spell comes in quickly, bees may huddle together to stay warm and leave the eggs in the cold, which may kill them off.

"The spring turnover we have to have more bees hatching than there are dying," he said.

Kate Bueckert/CBC
Kate Bueckert/CBC

His spring turnover is going well. His area has had enough warm weather to prompt willow trees to bloom. The bees have been collecting pollen from the blooms right now, he said. That's what they've been feeding the young larvae. They're also collecting nectar from plants, which gives them energy to fly and do their work.

But he said people in northern New Brunswick "are devastated."

"They have snow on the ground, they've lost a tremendous amount of bees up there," he said. "This global climate change has had a devastating effect on us, on them up there especially."

Vautour said people often want to eradicate one plant for the sake of another, or kill one insect to save another, because humans give certain species more value than others.

But in fact, he said, every plant, animal and insect contributes to a balance that protects all. This is why he encourages people to hold off on mowing their lawn when dandelions are in bloom, for example.

"What is a weed but a beautiful flowering plant in the wrong place?" he said, quoting an anonymous saying.

While dandelions don't have pollen to keep the larvae fed, they do have nectar and can give the grownup bees energy to care for the younger ones.

"When the dandelions come in blossom, we know we're not going to lose any more bees for the rest of the season," he said. "That's good news."

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