By Diane Dunaway –
Honey bees are the poster children for environmental responsibility and vulnerability. They truly are the canaries in the coal mine. They create awareness for other natural pollinators that are under pressure from habitat loss, pesticide overuse, monoculture, and so on.
Ideally, our relationship with them is one of awe, respect, and responsible husbandry. It’s a symbiotic dance that beekeepers grow to know and love.
In recent years there’s been a rush to undertake beekeeping as a way to help save the bees. Lovely as this sentiment is, the drop out rate is high. Novice beekeepers often fail in the first few years. Their colonies decline, and bees are burdened with diseases and pests that spread to other nearby apiaries.Local education and bee club membership is highly recommended to learn best about how to keep bees in one’s microclimate. In the Cariboo-Chilcotin we have excellent access to certified instructors. There’s also a free provincial webinar that starts in February—distance learning for those who live far out of town.
The Central Cariboo Beekeepers club co-ordinates the purchase of honey bees from hardy BC stock that’s best adapted to our climate. Ideally bees should have natural resistance to pests and diseases, which means they don’t require antibiotics or harsh miticides. As part of Best Management Practices, we monitor for parasites and diseases such as Varroa mites and American Foulbrood. We intervene if levels reach a threshold that threatens the life of the colony. Besides conventional means, organic treatments are available and are highly effective.
Honey bees pollinate a tremendous amount of food we eat; every third bite we take can be attributed to bee pollination. If almonds or blueberries are in your diet, chances are honey bees were contracted to pollinate them.
If you feel compelled to learn more about bees, perhaps a more hands-on experience might be in store? There are many beekeepers in the Cariboo, including those in our club in Williams Lake. We have veteran members as excellent resource people who practise respectful beekeeping. Our field days are open to the general public. For just $10 you can join our club and support bees in the community whether you choose to keep them or not. Find out more at Central Cariboo Beekeepers Association. See our Facebook page, or contact our president, John Hoyrup, at (250) 296-3588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the next issue of TheGreenGazette I look forward to sharing outcomes from an invitational conference I attended in California this winter. A group of 100 concerned researchers, pollinator experts, beekeepers, extension educators, and developmental aid workers from seven countries gathered. We worked towards solutions for the environment, our bees, and indigenous pollinators. Feel free to check out Bee Audacious at www.beeaudacious.com.
Diane Dunaway has kept bees for 20 consecutive seasons. An apiary inspector since 2015 and Master Beekeeper since 2001, she’s run up to 100 colonies from her Bee Happy Honey farm in the Soda Creek. Diane was editor of BeesCene, the BC Honey Producers Association (BCHPA) quarterly journal, for five years. In 2013 she became a BCHPA certified instructor. Diane was co-ordinating book editor on A History of Beekeeping in British Columbia from 1950 to 2000. When she’s not chasing swarms around the countryside, Diane can be found at home with Dave, her husband of 25 years, and their menagerie of rescue animals.