by MONICA MARCU and MIKE PODINA
Anyone interested in learning more about bees is encouraged to join a new group led by Monica Zieper.
The club started last December and is very popular with existing beekeepers and those who aspire to become one. Bee-lovers from Valemount, Crescent Spur and everywhere in between, teenagers to people in their 70’s are among the students.
Long-time McBride resident Len McClinton says there were many bee hives in Robson Valley before 1980s, but their number decreased, and there are fewer people these days who keep bees.
But residents are striving to bring back the domesticated bee population, and learn how to encourage and support the wild bees and related pollinating insects.
The beekeepers attending the club keep between one to eight hives each, and new members have ordered bees.
At club meetings, members discuss equipment needed to tend to the bees and the hive components, the diseases encountered today at the beehive, how to order necessary items and about the bee herself. Zieper will pick up the ordered bees in Valemount on the first week of May and distribute them to the people who ordered them, then she will also help to install the bees in their hives.
There is a lot to learn, and a place for classic and modern styles of beekeeping. Some of the new beekeepers like Bob Gray are going directly to high-tech hives, skipping the eight or 10 frame classical hive.
The latest hive on the market is the “Flow Hive” which reduces the disturbance of the bees, and removes the need for some equipment for the honey extraction, like the centrifugal extractor and other extracting/bottling equipment. With this innovative hive one just cranks the frame with a L-shape key than turns the tap open, and honey comes into the jars. Others have decided to go with the “Top Bar Hive,” which expands horizontally, compared with the classical hive which expands vertically.
How expensive it is to start with one bee hive? The classical 8 frame and 10 frame hive costs between $150 – $300CAN, depending on how many suppers you want to have and how much assembly work you can do. The top bar hive costs $350CAN, fully assembled, and the flow hive costs about $750US fully assembled.
To order the bees one has two options: get a package bee at a cost of ~$200CAN for 1KG of bees and queen, or get a NUCs at ~$250CAN, which has four frames with bees and queen.
How much honey can you obtain from a hive? In the Robson Valley beekeepers got between 30– 70kg of honey/hive last year.
Why are bees vitally important for the Robson Valley and everywhere else? Together with the wild bees and bumblebees they pollinate more than 80 per cent of the plants we eat – vegetables, fruits, our hay fields and many wild flowers, trees and bushes.
- Stop using poisonous pesticides or at least use them sparingly
- Plant bee-attracting flowers, rich in pollen and nectar such as sunflowers, clover, dahlias, geraniums, hollyhocks, marigolds, poppies
- Encourage wild flowers—these are the bees’ favorites. Yellow, white, blue and purple are colors preferred by bees.
- Plant herbs like catnip, coriander, fennel, lavender, rosemary, sage, mint, thyme
- Let some space go a little wild in your yard, with taller grass. Bees need a wild habitat to thrive. Allow for some meadow-like spaces in your garden and patches of exposed dirt that become mud when it rains. This create bee “baths” – small pools of water with stones where bees can land and access the water
- Provide a bee shelter with rotting stumps
Bees are susceptible to many chemicals sprayed in the gardens. The best way to encourage any bees is to stop using pesticides of any kind.
We enjoy in this beautiful and wild corner of the world a clean and natural environment where bees could truly thrive. The bees are vanishing or dying in most parts of the developed world, probably because of pollution of many types.
For those interested in attending, club meetings are held once a month at McBride Library Annex, usually on the last Friday of each month at 7:00pm.
We can become one of the best regions in North America to keep and protect bees!