May 27, 2021Lack of honeybees impacting fruit production at Okanagan orchards
Okanagan fruit growers who are already stinging from labour challenges and low prices now have a possible shortage of honeybees to worry about.
“I don’t want to be an alarmist, but this was the most difficult (season) in our history of doing pollination over the past 20 years,” Penticton apiarist Kevin Dunn told the Vancouver Sun for a May 26 story.
“It was very, very stressful and very, very difficult to source out these bees… and now next year there will be potentially a shortage of bees.”
Dunn, who has been in the commercial bee-keeping business with his wife, Janelle, for 20 years, had to go all the way to Manitoba this spring to find enough hives to meet demand in the Okanagan.
“Some growers had to be shorted beehives this year because there wasn’t enough bees and manpower,” Dunn told the Sun.
He and other experts blame much of the shortage on an unexplained, higher-than-normal die-off of bees in some regions of the province during the colder months, which cost commercial beekeepers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Sun also reported:
“We work with two partners in Peace River and both of them had catastrophic losses over the winter, the reason for which we are still trying to get to the bottom of,” said Dunn.
Catastrophic winter losses meant that there were fewer beehives available to provide to orchards for pollination.
“That service is critical for fruit production because without those bees in the orchard you really don’t have fruit production because we’ve destroyed all of our natural habitats (for bees) and we need bulk pollinators by the millions to do the job.”
Bees don’t go to work solely for the purpose of pollinating plants.
As the insects fly from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollen for their hives, some pollen sticks to their bodies and is deposited on other flowers. That cross-pollination fertilizes the other flowers, which then produce seeds and fruit.
But if the pollinators’ numbers keep dwindling, it could spell disaster for the agriculture industry, according one of B.C.’s top bee experts.
“In modern agriculture, there is no question: The growers can simply not operate if they don’t have access to bees. They would be in serious trouble,” said apiculturist Paul van Westendorp of the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.
“If there is a steady and persistent decline in the overall abundance of pollinating insects, the productivity of these crops become uneconomical, and the effect would be no fruit or less fruit.
To view the entire Vancouver Sun story, visit here.