A new round of funding from Bee BC, to support community projects aimed at protecting the health and habitat of bees was announced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries on Jan. 8. (Stock photo)

Bee BC to issue new funding for community projects and bee protection

Local beekeeper says Prince Rupert is not the climate for productive hives

  • Jan. 15, 2021 12:00 a.m.

There is a buzz in the air as a new round of Bee BC funding opens to support more community projects aimed at protecting the health and habitat of bees, the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (BCMAFF) announced in a statement on Jan. 8.

Prince Rupert resident Cary Dalton raised bees for two years in the city and said government funding is important to commercial enterprises as a large amount of the food we eat needs pollination, but they shouldn’t be on the hook to financially support hobbyists.

“Bees are vital to our food production,” Dalton said.”A huge percentage of our food, I think it’s just under 40 per cent, has to be pollinated by bees.”

Bees play a role in the everyday life of British Columbians and a vital role in our agricultural industry,” Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, said. “Farmers rely on bees to pollinate their crops and consumers rely on farmers to put fresh produce on their plates, so the work B.C. beekeepers do to keep our bee populations healthy is important to all citizens. By supporting these projects, we are helping future generations of bees and ensuring food security in B.C.”

“As crop pollinators and honey producers, honeybees and native pollinators have a critical role in B.C.’s sustainable food system, contributing an estimated $538 million to the provincial economy,” MAFF said in the statement.

Beekeepers, beekeeping associations, and regional and community-based organizations can apply for funding starting Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, Each project is eligible to receive up to $5,000 to fund projects enhancing bee health throughout the province.

The last round of project funding included educational programs for schools to teach the life cycle of the honeybee, the importance of pollination and the importance of bees and other pollinators on the larger ecosystem; testing the effectiveness of a seaweed extract supplement to help increase hive size and reduce disease levels among blueberry pollinator bees on the south coast; and mass planting nectar trees and other perennial bee flowers to help increase local nectar forage during the summer on the Gulf Islands.

In 2019 there were 55,781 colonies in the province, and more than a quarter of Canada’s beekeepers reside in B.C, said BC MAFF, with bees in B.C. producing more than 1,770 kilograms of honey, a 24 per cent increase from 2018.

Dalton who was a member of the BC Beekers Association said there is a lot of knowledgeable help around and equipment is easy to come by. However, beekeeping in Prince Rupert is not without its challenges – the wet weather in the region is the main one.

“Raising of the bees itself is not a daunting task. In normal times they took pretty good care of themselves. You don’t have to do a lot,” he said. “The weather in Rupert is tough on bees because of the moisture.”

“The issue is when it’s raining hard, a raindrop to a bee is like us getting hit in the head with a hammer. They can’t get out of the hive.”

Dalton said when it is raining hard as it has over the past few summers, plants are not flowering. Plants in Prince Rupert are monoculture and there is a lack of pollination, which then may require a beekeeper to supplement food for the hive by using sugar water. If a small hobbyist beekeeper who has two or three hives has to do this, it eventually becomes not cost-efficient as more is spent on sugar than will be produced in honey.

The cost to set up a hive for a hobby is not overly expensive, he said. A ‘nuc’ of 50,000 bees plus a queen costs between $250 to $300. He spent an additional $500 on clothing and equipment.

Dalton had two hives of bees in Prince Rupert and said one of his hives died unexpectedly for unknown reasons and the bees in the other, which was in a different location, flew away one day and didn’t come back. He chose not to re-invest in the endeavour. There was one other beekeeper in Prince Rupert, to who he sold his equipment, has since moved his hives to Terrace where the weather in the summer is more bee-friendly.

The time commitment to looking after bees and raising hives is not extensive, he said.

“You don’t want to open the hive up more than once a week to 10 days, he said. “You might have to open it up depending on how much you are feeding them. If they are just left alone doing their thing, lots of beekeepers with big operations may not look inside that hive, all summer.”

Bees are generally not aggressive Dalton said, and even though he was only stung once because he didn’t have his suit on, he would start up more hives “in a heartbeat” in a more bee-friendly environment and location.

According to BCMAFF, May 29, 2020, was proclaimed Day of the Honey Bee in B.C.

K-J Millar | Journalist

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