This past winter was the worst in recent memory for the bee population in Ontario. The final survey of overwintering losses by Ontario Beekeepers conducted by the Ontario Beekeepers Association (OBA) were released in mid – May .
Thirty percent of beekeepers reported a loss of 70% or greater of their overwintered hives; 40 % reported losses of 50% to 70 % and 30 % reported losses of 25% to 50 % According to Mr. Jim Coneybeare, President of the OBA, A the number of dead or weak colonies is astounding. These could be the worst winter losses on record.
In the Province of Quebec and New York State many beekeepers reported losses of 90%.
It would appear that the main cause for these losses was the weather. In our area, Environment Canada reported 49 freeze cycles. This occurs when temperature fluctuations between cold and warm, varies over a short period of time B say a week or less. Normally this would occur 5 or 6 times during the winter season and bees can handle those conditions.
In addition to overwintering losses, as of May, surviving colonies are at least four if not six weeks behind their normal spring build up. The winter and spring of 2018 were particularly severe and damaging for beekeepers, with record breaking cold weather in December and January and no temperature relief through March and April brood rearing – often starting as early as February – was delayed until warmer weather arrived in late April.
In addition, the problem of neonicotinoids is still a major problem.
Pesticide related losses continue with 40 % of commercial beekeepers participating in the OBA survey saying they suspect pesticides may have weakened their hives as a reason for high winter losses.
Spring is peeking around the corner, with the warm weather and sunshine everyone is probably planning their gardens! When planning remember our friends the bees! Attracting bees will not only help our bee population but also make your garden flourish! Here is a collection of ideas and plants to help grow a bee garden even in the smallest place.
David Suzuki suggests the following plants:
He also suggests making a bee bath out of a shallow dish with rocks and water for the bees to drink.
The honeybee conservancy suggests the following tips:
- Replace some of your lawn with flowering plants
- Select single flower plans (daisy, marigold) and not heavily hybridized varieties as they produce more nectar
- Use only natural herbicides and pesticides
- no garden? even a small rooftop or window garden is helpful to the bees!
Many retailers offer wildflower or bee mixes to augment your garden, not only are they beautiful but they will attract bee friends
Resources and information from:
Globe and Mail http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/what-you-can-do-in-your-garden-and-yard-to-help-bees-and-butterflies/article30101793/
David Suzuki – What you can do http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/food-and-our-planet/create-a-bee-friendly-garden/
Bees matter – http://Beesmatter.ca
Bring Back the Bees (from Honey Nut Cheerios) https://bringbackthebees.ca/
The honeybee conservancy http://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/act-today/plant-a-bee-garden/
Seed retailers online:
West Coast Seeds – Plant flower seeds for bees https://www.westcoastseeds.com/garden-resources/articles-instructions/plant-flower-seeds-for-bees/
Verseys Seeds Bee feed mix Wildflowers http://www.veseys.com/ca/en/store/flowerseed/wildflowersap/beefeedmix