‘Honey armageddon’: Beekeepers in Manitoba struggle with small honey crop after mass die-off
The large loss of colonies in the spring, coupled with other challenges such as inflation and honey prices, has Manitoba beekeepers buzzing about the upcoming winter weather.
John Russell is not only president of the Red River Apiarists’ Association, but also keeps his own beehives.
He says this year has been particularly difficult for beekeepers.
“Pretty catastrophic,” said Russell, the owner of John Russell Honey Company. “If we get two in a row, it will be Honey Armageddon.”
Despite a big fall last year, a late and snowy spring dramatically killed the bee population.
“I was looking at probably a four percent colony loss at the end of February, and at the end of April it was 40 percent, which are not sustainable numbers,” said Russell.
Podolski honey farms in Ethelbert, Man. saw 90 percent of their bee population die in the winter, which meant the apiary had to focus on rebuilding rather than producing honey.
“We normally do 15-20 truckloads of honey. This year we only did four,” said Bob Podolsky, owner of Podolski Honey Farms.
The Manitoba Beekeepers’ Association said many growers are currently feeling beaten up.
The association’s president, Ian Steppler, said better access to importing bees could help the situation, but improving the health of the local hive is the focus.
“Just get better treatment options, maybe more effective treatments to control the varroa mites. We should be able to keep our hives healthier,” Steppler explains.
Steppler said many colonies have made progress this season, but another rough hibernation could be disastrous for some.
“If we have another bad spring, it could hurt our industry,” he said. “We could see a lot of growers really relapsing because of this, so we really hope we have something positive ahead.”
A risk keeper like Russell knows they can stab them.
“There’s an old saying that any fool can keep bees until the end of December. The real tricky part is when you start moving toward spring,” Russell said.
Russell said another mild autumn with plenty of flowers gave his bees plenty of honey for the winter, giving him an optimistic outlook.
As for Podolsky, he took his bees to BC to hibernate in hopes that more will survive by keeping them in a milder climate.
Editor’s note: Podoloski Honey Farms and Podolosky are spelled differently on purpose.