Alberta bee industry feels sting from COVID-19-related supply delays

Click to play video: 'Alberta bee industry feels the sting from COVID-19'
Alberta bee industry feels the sting from COVID-19
At this time of year, millions of bees should be buzzing to produce honey for local beekeepers. But the pandemic has left many Alberta producers without a key component to making honey — the tiny workers themselves. Chris Chacon explains why – Apr 23, 2021

April is the month most Alberta beekeepers receive their shipments of imported bees to begin honey production season but this year those essential deliveries just aren’t arriving.

“Just not enough planes moving cargo,” Alberta Honey Producers Co-operative director of supply, Derrick Johnston, said. “And to move the cargo, you need the people and with COVID, people aren’t moving.”

Johnston said with planes being grounded from countries where bees come from, such as New Zealand and Australia, many shipments have been delayed or cancelled.

“We’ve been cancelled — it will be four pallets of bees, which is around 3,000 packages.”

Many producers just don’t have the bees to make honey, an issue for beekeepers with hives not able to survive the cold winter months.

Story continues below advertisement

According to a report by the Canadian Association for Professional Apiculturists showing the winter loss of honey bee colonies from 2019 to 2020, Alberta led the country with 40 per cent of non-viable colonies unable to make it through winter.

Glyn Stephens is a full-time commercial beekeeper who has worked in the industry nearly his whole life.

He says while last year was tough, so far this year things aren’t looking much better.

“You make a plan, then the next week things have changed, now that plan is irrelevant,” said Stephens, who owns Revival Queen Bees.

Click to play video: 'Goodwill Alberta installs ‘bee hotels’ to help pollinators'
Goodwill Alberta installs ‘bee hotels’ to help pollinators

Stephens said he, and most Alberta beekeepers, rely on bees from abroad. Without them, he says, there will be less honey and money to go around.

Story continues below advertisement

“From hobbyist to a business, some of this is their livelihood. So, absolutely, (being) unable to get the bees to put in those hives is hard on everybody.”

Stephens said there are some local options, but the quality and price differ from imported bees. While there is an abundance of bees aboard, he says, it’s just a matter of getting them here.

Sponsored content