We examine the latest setback in the ongoing struggle to maintain healthy honey bee populations around the world. Every winter honey bee farmers hope that come spring, their colonies will have survived so that their businesses can remain economically viable. And with Vancouver Island receiving Spring the earliest of any location in Canada, farmers there are reporting catastrophic results from the winter with some farmers having lost up to 90% of their colonies. Yet while populations elsewhere in Canada have also been hit in recent years, it appears (at least at this point), that Vancouver Island’s significant losses are an isolated incident. Nevertheless these recurring losses to beekeepers have become an increasingly critical issue of concern around the world for both honey producers and other farmers who rely on honey bee colonies to pollinate their crops. We speak with British Columbia’s Provincial Apiculturist who shares his thoughts on the most recent collapse of colonies on Vancouver Island and he shares insights into what measures beekeepers are taking in response. And just as the most common and immediate responses to these types of threats are often simple band-aid solutions, we’ll also examine whether the collapse of honey bees around the world is the ‘canary in the coal mine’ – signalling to us that our practices of agriculture and land-use management are in desperate need of a foundational rethink.
And we’ll also travel to Vancouver Island to meet Bob Liptrot of Tugwell Creek Honey Farm & Meadery. Bob was one of the many foodies and farmers who Deconstructing Dinner visited in the community of Sooke back in February. Tugwell Creek has in no way been immune to the collapse of colonies on the Island, with their operation having suffered an estimated loss of at least 65% of their bees. But regardless of the grim challenges facing Tugwell Creek, we’ll receive some enjoyment with a tasty and fascinating introduction into mead, also known as honey wine – a product that Tugwell Creek specializes in producing. In fact, their meadery was the first in Western Canada.
Paul van Westendorp, provincial apiculturist, ministry of agriculture & lands, Province of British Columbia (Abbotsford, BC) – Paul has acted as the Provincial Apiculturist for the Province of British Columbia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Lands for over 20 years. Previous to his role in BC, Paul worked in the same capacity for the Province of Alberta. He’s worked on beekeeping programs in Uganda and has also worked for Canada’s Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food’s apiculture research station in Beaverlodge, Alberta.
Bob Liptrot, co-owner, Tugwell Creek Honey Farm & Meadery (Sooke, BC) – Bob and his wife Dana LeComte have operated Tugwell Creek Honey Farm for 11 years and the meadery for 7 years.