Will Clark, owner of the Rivercrest Honey Farm, feeds sugar syrup to one of his hives at a site located south of Brandon. Clark says the cold spring has been hard on bees, as trees and flowers have yet to create nectar.
Brandon-area beekeepers say hives are about two to three weeks behind schedule due to the extended period of cool weather this spring.
However, while the below-average temperatures have likely shortened the season for honey producers, they have also kept grain and canola farmers off the fields for spring planting.
"Fortunately (for us) there’s no seeding happening," Rivercrest Honey Farm owner Will Clark said yesterday. "That means canola will also be late, and our main honey flow is from canola. In the big picture, we’ll probably be OK."
Environment Canada predicted last month that most of the Prairies, including southern Manitoba, would experience below normal temperatures well into May. The mercury hit 10.1 C on May 13, eight degrees below the average temperatures reported for that date.
"The bees need warm weather," Clark said. "We don’t even have normal. Even 15 C would help, and we’re not close to that."
Though the cool weather is hampering bee hive development, local beekeepers say this spring is not as bad as last spring, when many producers sustained major bee losses and had to rebuild their stock.
Clark says he has not heard of any major bee die-offs this year, but cool May weather forced him to provide extra feed for his bees, as the trees and flowers have yet to create nectar.
"It’s been really hard on them," Clark said. "It takes extra feeding. All we can do right now is make sure they don’t starve."
Bill Bygarski, who operates a honey farm southwest of Brandon, says his bee stock weathered the winter pretty well.
"Most have come through in fairly good condition this year," he said.
Following the 2012-13 winter, Bygarski was hit with a 27 per cent loss, due to an early winter and a late spring season.
"The problem last year was that the bees didn’t come through winter as well," Bygarski said.
And while his bee stock came through winter "fairly successfully," the cool spring is certainly not welcome.
"A later crop tends to be a smaller crop. There’s always that concern. But I can’t control the weather."
Bygarski, who also keeps hives near Riding Mountain National Park, west of Sandy Lake, says this kind of spring could spell bear trouble for his bees.
On a year like this, he says, bear forage is meagre, so they destroy the hive trying to get at the insects inside.
"They’ll knock hives over and tear frames apart. It’s a misconception that bears eat honey. They’re after the larva and the bees. They’ll completely wreck hives."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 15, 2014