It’s mid-winter throughout BC, but our focus is now turning to spring, which seems to be just around the corner. These past few months have brought us unforgettable extreme weather with atmospheric rivers of rain in November, accompanied by flooding and horrific conditions for both livestock and farmers, then followed up in December with prolonged ultra-low temperatures throughout much of the province. Many beekeepers lost both equipment and bee stock in the flooding, and it was a relief to hear the recent announcement from Minister Popham that a joint federal/provincial AgriRecovery fund is now available.
In addition, the BCAC (BC Agriculture Council) will be providing the various agriculture sectors, including beekeepers, with additional funds that were donated in response to the flooding. These funds will top up what will be provided by AgriRecovery and will be distributed to affected beekeepers through your BCHPA. Our membership in the BCAC is continuing to demonstrate its benefits to our association. I hope those of you who were affected by flooding will apply to AgriRecovery and make use of the available funding.
So far, some of our bees appear to have weathered the winter challenges with minimal losses at this point. I remind myself that it is only mid-February, and our harshest winter conditions could still be coming, just after the cluster has loosened a bit and brood-rearing has begun. In other parts of BC it is clearly mid-winter, with more snow and low temperatures still expected. Wherever you are in the province, there should still be time to plan your bee season and finish getting your equipment repaired and ready.
Personally, I am planning to downsize my bee numbers to about half, but will retain enough stock to test for Hygienic Behaviour, breed from the best, and maintain my small queen rearing operation. I currently have 7 small yards, two of which are for a research project monitoring neonicotinoids in honey bee colonies, and comparing those findings to contaminants found in nearby foraging hummingbirds. The other 5 yards are clustered within a few km of my home site in southeast Langley, so if I am reducing my colonies I will also need to consider which of my yards to keep and which to let go – a tough decision when you have built up a relationship with supportive landowners.
Our Tech Transfer Program is off to a great start! The program lead, Dr. Nuria Morfin, is initiating a citizen science project focusing on varroa that all of us can take part in. This will help determine mite treatment thresholds that are specific to regions throughout our province, so we can better manage our mites. She is also putting together round table discussions focusing on sustainability, and what that means to BC beekeepers. The TTP website will be up and running within a few weeks, so you can check it all out.
I am excited about our upcoming virtual Semi-Annual meeting and Education days, to be held March 18-19. The theme is: “Opportunity Rising: Enriching Bees and Beekeepers” featuring our Tech Transfer Program and an amazing lineup of speakers, including Paul Kelly, Megan Milbraith, Medhat Nasr, Pierre Giovenazzo, Ramesh Sagili, Julia Common, Nuria Morfin, Les Eccles, and Tech Transfer Team members from across the country. I can’t wait to see and hear all the talks!
The Covid pandemic still plagues our province and our country, but with the new omicron variant and changing public health recommendations, it is not clear when this shape-shifting menace will be under control, or how long the current vaccines will maintain their efficacy. We depend on reliable science for good information, but often it is the loudest, not necessarily the most accurate voice that gets the most attention. I hope that the disruptions and animosity within communities and even families will die down when Covid begins a predicted downward trend, and we become freer to gather in warmer weather this spring.