A New Brunswick father is teaching his young son the “art” of beekeeping to help take the sting out of a shortage of keepers in the province.
When five-year-old Tucker Casey of Steeves Mountain, N.B., told his dad that he wanted to help tend to his honeybees, it was an unexpectedly sweet moment for his dad.
“He wanted a bee suit. He wanted to be like dad,” said Matt Casey, who has been a beekeeper for the past four years.
After searching high and low for the smallest beekeeping suit he could find, Casey said he outfitted Tucker this summer and they hit the hives for some old-fashioned, hands-on learning.
“I have been learning what bees do,” said Tucker, peeking out from underneath the screen on his beekeeping hood.
Even with the bees buzzing all around him, Casey said Tucker shows absolutely no fear.
“He’s learning all the components of the hives and all the equipment. He can spot queens on the frames and he is learning what they look like,” said Casey.
The father is also hoping to pass on his knowledge about the important part bees play in food production and the pollination of crops, he said.
“They go on your vegetables and then they will grow,” said Tucker.
According to the New Brunswick Beekeepers Association, there is a shortage of commercial beekeepers in New Brunswick.
“There are about 400 to 450 beekeepers in the province,” said association president Chris Davey.
But Davey said that only a small number of beekeepers run commercial operations with 50 or more hives. That is not nearly enough to pollinate all New Brunswick crops, he said, which is why blueberry growers have to import bees to pollinate their crops.
Casey said it was harder to import bees this year amid COVID-19.
“Normally we rely on imports of honeybees from Ontario and Quebec but with the border closed, it made it harder for those to get in,” he said.
So he is trying to raise at least one more homegrown honey beekeeper to help revive what he calls a dying art.
“I feel that if we can spark that in him, then maybe this is something that he will carry on and hopefully someday teach his kids,” Casey said.
When asked if he wanted to become a beekeeper when he grows up, Tucker said yes.
“They are my favourite animal.”