Winter may not be bees’ biggest threat

by MIKE PODINA & MONICA MARCU

Beekeeping has become the buzz of the valley.

Robson Valley beekeepers and bee lovers alike had the opportunity this year to gather, learn and share their knowledge in an organized venue via the dedicated club, led by Monica Zieper. The club’s meetings were very well attended, members say, with members coming from as far as Valemount, to Crescent Spur, and in-between.

At the last meeting of the year, the most important cold season preparations were discussed.

In recent years, the bee colonies were dramatically affected and large winter losses were reported all over the continent, and the world. This creates a huge societal problem, as bees are extremely important for maintaining a healthy natural ecosystem and pollinating the majority of crops we enjoy or survive on.

As of late — and as a result — great attention has been dedicated to the situation of bee populations by scientists, farmers as well as politicians.

In Canada, winter losses show a declining trend since 2010, after they were highest between 2007-09, when they were about 33 per cent. Still — imagine, about a third of the Canadian colonies, which numbered over 720,000 in 2014, dead.

Although the causes of the colonies collapse are not fully understood, a few clear suspects are defined and, whenever possible, eliminated by scientists.

Bees are very susceptible to various toxics and chemicals sprayed on the crops or used to fight weeds and pests. We are blessed here in the valley, with a pristine environment, still devoid of industrial farming and electromagnetic pollutants, thus giving the wild and domesticated bees a better chance to thrive.

While bees are vanishing in many parts of the world, this valley can become one of the best regions in North America, maybe the world, to preserve and protect the industrious little workers.

In fact, for most of the local beekeepers this was a good year and they succeeded to harvest a decent quantity of honey. The members were keeping between one and eight hives, some new to the skill, while others more advanced. But beekeepers must be open to learning about equipment to attend the bees and the hive components, types of bees, the diseases at the beehive and their medicines, how to order necessary items and many skills.

Varroa mite infestation seems to be considered by bee specialists as one of the main causes of honeybee colony mortality. Indeed, many of our local beekeepers needed to treat for varroa mites this year, but in August a new and serious threat was discovered.

Very recently, the “zombie bee” was noticed for the first time in B.C.

Apocephalus borealis is a species of North American parasitoid phorid fly that parasitizes bumblebees and wasps.

These flies are known as zombie flies and the bees they infect are known as zombie bees. They were not observed before in B.C. until this year.

Zombie bees are a beekeeper’s worst nightmare. Members of the club, as well as various people all over Canada, B.C. and North America are monitoring the situation and will continue to do it into next year.

Let’s hope these new threats will not arrive here, in the north. Meanwhile we all should plan to help bees over the next difficult months and beyond. Reduce or stop using pesticides such as RoundUp, plant bee-attracting flowers such as sunflowers, clover, geraniums, marigolds and let some wilder spaces in your yard.

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1 Comment

  1. Electromagnetic pollution… Facepalm. The only time you should start worrying about em radiation below IR is if you’re operating a ground based radio telescope or someone is focusing High intensity millimeter or microwaves on you. Other than that its the nocebo effect.

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