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)

B.C. 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 B.C. 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. 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.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

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

Oregon spotted frog egg masses near Agassiz. (Fraser Valley Conservancy)
Jumping for joy over Oregon spotted frog discovery near Agassiz

Finding six egg masses could be step toward recovery of Canada’s most endangered amphibian

Sunset Manor, an assisted living facility in Chilliwack owned by the Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Chilliwack, pictured here in October 2020, had its third COVID-19 outbreak declared on April 9, 2021. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Third outbreak declared at Chilliwack care home run by church known for opposing vaccinations

30-bed Sunset Manor owned and operated by Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Chilliwack

Peter Scherle shared this 1958 photo of his father, then-Town Chairperson Paul Scherle (centre) speaking with Queen Elizabeth II with Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in the background. Prince Philip passed away April 9 at the age of 99. (Photo/Peter Scherle)
PHOTOS: Hope residents remember Prince Philip, royal visits to Fraser Valley

Prince Phillip died at age 99 at Windsor Castle on April 9

Sold decals on real estate signs are commonplace in the red-hot Chilliwack real estate market (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Chilliwack homes getting offers the first day the for-sale sign goes up

The March report from the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board shows the market remains red-hot

Fans of the Indian restaurant Shandhar Hut are excited to have a second location opening soon at the base of Promontory Road, but the project has created a financial burden for the restaurant’s owners at the worst possible time. (Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce photo)
Chilliwack businesses getting financial boost through Circuit Breaker grant

A one-time payment of $10,000 will go to restaurants, bars, breweries, gyms and fitness centres

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

British Columbia Attorney General David Eby. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Attorney General covers housing, homelessness and justice reform in Surrey Zoom

‘I think it would be really great to hold some sessions in Surrey,’ Eby says of legislative assembly

(File photo)
Youths confront man seen masturbating while walking his dog

Police say it happened Thursday (April 8) on walking path in Surrey

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed on April 4, according to a statement from police. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police name victim following city’s fourth homicide of 2021

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed Sunday in the Downtown Eastside

A man wears a face mask past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Calls for stricter action in B.C. as COVID-19 variants projected to climb

Jens von Bergmann says the province has taken a ‘wait and see’ approach when early action is needed

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning says the players who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 are recovering and the team still intends to play a 56-game season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks players ‘mostly on the other side’ of COVID outbreak: general manager

The athletes have had a “whole range” of COVID-19 symptoms, said team physician Dr. Jim Bovard, but no one has needed to be hospitalized

Most Read