B.C. beekeepers will face extra supply challenges this year thanks to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions. (Black Press Media file photo)

B.C. beekeepers will face extra supply challenges this year thanks to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions. (Black Press Media file photo)

B.C. bee supply threatened this year by wasps, COVID

No, bees aren’t getting COVID, it’s the supply chain that’s been disrupted

Bumblebees are waking up from a winter hibernation, and have been spotted buzzing around the forests near bee master Barry Denluck’s home on Pender Island.

But along with them, hornets and wasps are also emerging, and it’s time to set up traps for these carnivores, he warns.

“Wasps and hornets eat honey bees for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Half of my losses over the years have been from wasp predation,” he said.

The formidable predators can decimate a honey bee colony in a matter of hours, and all a beekeeper can do is watch.

If a scout wasp is able to sneak into a beehive and snatch a larva — pure protein, and a very good snack — it will tag the hive with a pheromone the rest of its family will smell. Once they catch the scent, the bees are as good as gone.

“We’re out there every day right now washing the front of our beehives with soap and water, hoping that we can get the tag off before the next wasp comes,” Denluck said of he and the B.C. community of apiarists.

He thinks wasp and hornet populations are increasing, a worrying sign if true.

Honey bees are already in trouble this year, Denluck said, due to February’s polar vortex that brought cold winds and humidity as well as aggressive predation from hornets and wasps. Beekeepers are sharing sad news of hives that didn’t survive the winter. Denluck has never had as many requests for new bees as he has this year.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of losses this year. Our list for nucs (nucleus colonies) are way up there. People requesting nucs now are going to get them in May and into June,” said Stan Reist, an importer, pollinator, educator and bee master of the Flying Dutchman in Nanaimo.

READ MORE: Breeding a better bee for Vancouver Island

Supply of bees disrupted by COVID-19

On top of exaggerated losses, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on worldwide bee supply routes, with at least one shipment of bees arriving dead in Vancouver from New Zealand.

Reist said the route many bees take — via plane, not their own wings — have been rerouted to land in the United States, leaving Canadian bee importers dependant on Air Canada. This would be fine except that the carrier happens to have upgraded their Vancouver-Auckland-Sydney route to the energy-efficient Boeing 787. One of the Dreamliner’s ‘efficiencies’ is less air conditioning in the cargo hold.

The bees got too hot mid-flight, and a whole pallet of around 650 packages arrived dead.

It’s a major challenge for Canada, a country that’s not even close to being self-sufficient in bees. Most imports come from New Zealand and Australia and are used to replace hive colonies that didn’t survive the winter.

“There were 80 pallets scheduled [to come to Canada], and I think we’ll end up with 20,” Reist said.

The president of the Canadian Honey Council is working hard to try and have Air Canada switch back to the original Boeing 777 with bee-quality air conditioning.

In the meantime, Reist said importers from the Prairies have started getting bees delivered to Toronto via Boeing 777s, and driving across the country to pick them up.

Reist’s Flying Dutchman importing, pollinating and honey company was able to get two pallets alive in early March before the weather warmed, but said bee supply will be strained this year.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

READ MORE: Automated honey extraction system to help B.C.’s beekeeping industry


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusEnvironmentgardening

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Raising more than $1,300 for the KVHS’s dementia home project, Dennis and Brenda Horwood leave Kitimat with a bang and start their new retirement journey together. (Photo supplied)
KVHS thanks local Kitimat couple for their contributions to the dementia home project

Dennis and Brenda Horwood raise $1,360 during a retirement garage sale

No increase in fees will be made by the leisure services department in the summer months. Reviews will be made again in May/June for any recommended fee adjustments in the fall. (District of Kitimat photo)
District of Kitimat halt leisure fee increases until the fall

The Leisure Services Advisory Commission recommended no increase take place at this time

Mount Elizabeth Theatre have been approved for a provision of funding by city council for up to $42,000. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
Kitimat’s multi-use theatre grant request approved for live streaming equipment

A funding commitment of up to $42,000 was granted from council to the Mount Elizabeth Theatre

Tracy Owen-Best with her husband, Larry Best. Tracy runs both the Nechako Barbershop and Hair Essentials Salon in Kitimat. Diagnosed with cancer in March 2020, she’s kept a positive mindset with the help from a supportive family. (Photo supplied)
In Our Valley: Tracy Owen-Best

Barbershop owner and cancer fighter keeps it positive

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read