Industry in peril: Manitoba bee farmers suffer big losses due to bad weather

The brutal weather conditions have been tough for producers of all kinds, and the 2022 season isn’t starting off so hot for bee farmers either. Marek Tkach reports.

Manitoba’s farmers have had it rough, first dealing with drought conditions through most of 2021, then followed by more extreme weather this year.

It’s been tough for producers of all kinds, and the 2022 season isn’t starting off so hot for bee farmers. either.

Ray Giguere of Giguere Honey Farms told 680 CJOB he’s anticipating losing up to 60 per cent of his bees if weather conditions don’t improve soon, as the bees need time to build up in the spring after being at their weakest point.

“At first peak in early April, I was looking at around 40 per cent (losses), and if things didn’t warm up I figured I would probably hit around 60, which looks like that’s going to happen.

“Seventy to 80 per cent (is what) I’ve been hearing in some worst-case scenarios.

“Anything to do with agriculture and farming, that’s just the way it is — you’re susceptible to weather, disease.”

Giguere said the cold weather means nothing is growing right now, and starvation can be a factor for bees. They can be supplemented with feed, but it’s mainly up to mother nature. Weeds, like dandelions, he said, are often the bees’ first form of nectar after a long, cold winter.

“I’m hoping those dandelions show up soon, but we need that warm weather.

“Don’t spray the dandelions — keep that nice, golden flow on your lawn for the bees, this year more than ever.”

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Michael Clark of Clark Apiaries, a much larger operation with more than a century of history, told Global News on the weekend that going into the winter, everything looked OK with his bees, but not so in the springtime.

Clark estimates his losses could eclipse 70 per cent, or a loss of about 1,200 colonies.

“Coming into spring, everything’s off. Nothing’s normal. They died over the winter,” he said.

“We sent some samples away to get it tested to see if it was environmental from the feed in the hive that they’re eating. Mites always contribute to a loss, but (this time), I think it’s more environmental, personally — a dry year last year, and the drought in Manitoba.”

Clark said he’s already had to lay off staff and is looking at a total loss of around five employees.

“The way the spring is looking and the hives are looking, it’s not looking like a good year,” he said.

“I’m not going to say I’m not going to make money, but we’ll have some difficult talks with the bank. The industry is in crisis, Manitoba-wide.

“There’s a few pockets of guys who have had OK winterings, but I don’t know if the industry is going to make it. It’s in peril.”

Clark said the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated supply-chain issues have also affected the cost of honey, making a tricky situation that could impact bee farmers for years to come.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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