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

Members of the city’s environmental advisory committee and some city councillors would like to receive and provide input into an application for a groundwater licence in Salmon Arm for the purpose of bottling fresh water. (Lachlan Labere - Salmon Arm Observer)
Concerns raised over water licence application in Salmon Arm for bottling water

Neighbours want to know more, city councillor concerned about commercial use of public aquifers

Photo: pixabay.com
Morning Start: What does space smell like?

Your morning start for Wednesday, April 21, 2021

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

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
67 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty people in the region are hospitalized with the virus, 11 of whom are intensive care

Tourism businesses are bracing for further details of travel restrictions expected to be announced by Friday, April 23. ( Jim Elliot-Eagle Valley News)
B.C. travel restrictions create uncertainty among North Okanagan-Shuswap businesses

Sicamous mayor to ramp up campaign against licence plate hate

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

Sheldon Pierre Louis’s winning mural design, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine.” (Facebook: Okanagan Nation Alliance)
Syilx artist selected as winner of Kelowna Gospel Mission’s mural project

Sheldon Pierre Louis was also awarded $10,000 for his winning submission, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine.”

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

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.

Kate Budau’s flat tire outside of Glenmore Elementary School on Monday. (Contributed)
Kelowna mom searches for Good Samaritans who helped her change a tire

Woman looking for two dads who helped her after her tire popped in the Glenmore Elementary School drop-off area on Monday

Most Read