Eastern Townships apiary's bees killed off by parasite
Published Wednesday, May 16, 2018 4:13PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 16, 2018 7:33PM EDT
An apiary in the Eastern Townships has lost almost all of its bees after it was a struck by a common parasite that's now found across the country.
“Before the loss I had 150 hives and now I have maybe 20 hives, and not necessarily 20 strong hives,” said Stephen Crawford, whose Three Acres apiary in Dunham has been producing honey for almost 30 years.
The eight million bees were killed by a parasite called Varroa destructor.
Crawford said opening his hives in the spring was heartbreaking.
“All the hives were dead. All the bees were dead inside the hive and full of honey as well. That means they didn't even make it through winter at all,” he said.
Varroa destructor has been in Canada since 1989 and is a problem for beekeepers almost all over the globe.
“These parasites live on the back of adult bees and reproduce in the eggs and larva of developing bees,” explained Evan Henry, the lead apicultural scientist and Nectar, a startup that helps honey bees and beekeepers communicate with each other.
The mites are tough to destroy and are quick to act, said Henry.
“It can really take over a hive quickly,” he said.
At Three Acres apiary, it’s left the family business in jeopardy, said co-owner Liliane Morel.
“We might potentially be looking at half our income going out the window this year. I have no idea what we're going to do,” she said.
“Just to replace the bees that I've lost I'm looking at $30,000,” said Crawford.
He said that on a good year, he can produce 20,000 pounds of honey, but this year he may not get 2,000.
“We've never lost 80 per cent of our hive,” he said. “The most I've ever lost was 20 or 30 per cent.
A crowdfunding page is helping them restore their bee colonies. As of Wednesday afternoon, they had raised nearly $10,000, with a goal of $20,000
“We launched it Friday and we are overwhelmed by the response, by how much people are helping us out any which way,” said Morel.
All beekeepers can have a bad season, says Crawford.
“I’m confident that things will be okay by next year, I've just got to get through this year,” he said.