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)

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 Vancouver Island 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. Vancouver Island 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.

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

Food trucks will be allowed to operate in several Sooke parks beginning May 1. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sooke’s food truck pilot project under scrutiny

Councillor questions impact food trucks will have on nearby restaurants

A walk for autism awareness. (Black Press Media file photo)
COLUMN: Autism acceptance, not autism awareness

Elizabeth Sparling is the mother of a 24-year-old son with Autism Spectrum Disorder

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
PHOTOS: Vehicle driven into Saanich Walmart removed after two trapped workers rescued

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Tons of bottles were donated during bottle drives in Sooke and Langford on March 27. The funds raised from the drives will help a local family stay with their daughter during her leukemia treatments in Vancouver. (Photos: Glendora Scarfone)
Sooke, Langford bottle drives help cover family’s costs of staying with daughter during cancer treatments

More than $11,900 raised to help Shae Hanilton’s family stay with her in Vancouver

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Most Read