Recent History – 2000
April 6, 2000
By Sue Hansen, Van Han Apiaries
The warm winds of March send Peace River beekeepers scrambling. Thousands of hives of bees are overwintered in atmosphere-controlled buildings in the region. It is an unnatural environment for the bees, and while they are kept fairly inactive by the dark coolness, they are not really hibernating in the same way that other animals do. They seem to sense that spring is approaching and on warm days, the closed-in hives begin to buzz with activity.
Bees need to fly in order to eliminate wastes, so beekeepers make en effort to predict the weather well enough to pull them out of the buildings for an early cleansing flight. It has been a long time since early November for the bees.
The hives are loaded onto trucks and transported to large holding yards containing 300 to 400 hives. Spring holding yards are located on the banks of the Peace River in order to provide the bees with the earliest possible pollen sources. Pollen is the bees’ essential protein and they can’t rear brood without it. The willows, aspen and dandelions that bloom first along the river furnish their early spring diet. Later, they will be moved in smaller groups to clover, canola and alfalfa fields.
While the bees are in the spring yards, the beekeepers travel regularly to them. They are fed with sugar syrup, checked for disease, and wrapped with yards of black plastic to provide extra protection from the wind. Beehives can be an early food source of food for black bears emerging from hibernation. Thus, an important part of spring management is surrounding the bee yards with electric fences. The fences are a proven deterrent and are checked often.
It is indeed springtime on the farm, and whether it is baby animals, the arrival of seed, or bees flying that signal a new year, farmers everywhere are beginning to gear up.