May 16, 2018 8:01 pm
Updated: May 16, 2018 8:10 pm

Alberta bee population feels impact of prolonged winter

WATCH: With the return of warm weather in Alberta, bees are out pollinating flowers and crops as well as making honey. But a long, cold winter has killed off a dramatic number of insects. Sarah Offin looks at the impact on people who depend on bees for a living.

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Beekeepers are busily working to restore Fallentimber Meadery’s hives after a long cold winter.

The Ryan family has produced honey in the Water Valley area of central Alberta for decades, where they currently tend to a couple dozen hives.

Beekeepers wrap the hives in insulated tarps every fall, but some smaller colonies still couldn’t generate enough of their own heat to survive this year’s prolonged winter weather.

It made for an arduous spring for those trying to help the remaining insects survive.

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READ MORE: Calgary crushed the monthly snowfall average in several months this winter

“At a lot of the locations, we were carrying feed in for the bees on toboggans and digging the colonies out and just physically trying to unearth them from the snow,” says head beekeeper Kevin Ryan.

Some died before keepers could get to them.

Overall, the Ryans lost about 25 per cent of their bees this winter, with as much as half of the populations dying off in some of the hives, especially those exposed to wind.

Following last year’s drought, the Ryans are now forced to buy supplemental honey to keep up with demand for their mead.

But there is some good news.

With quick-melting snow and lots in bloom lately, the bees are getting back to work.

“Now they have their own pollen flow coming in, and that really stimulates the hive to get healthy and build up the personnel again.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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