Steinbach Beekeeper Ron Rudiak

Honey production in Southeastern Manitoba this year is expected to be on par with past crops.  Steinbach Beekeeper Ron Rudiak says winter months in our province continue to be harsh on bees with average losses this past winter around 42%.  Despite this setback the bees have done well this spring and colonies are starting to grow in size.  He expects the honey crop could come in around 160-170 pounds per colony which is about average.

Rudiak notes the challenge for producers is to make up those losses.  You can either split colonies, which requires a thriving bee hive, or you can purchase a replacement colony.  He says if everybody in North America is losing 30-50% of their bees over winter there just isn't any replacement colonies anywhere.  As a result the beekeeping industry is in a bit of a crunch right now.  Rudiak reports some large producers have lost up to half of their colonies and they now are needing to replace as many as 2,000 hives.  This gets expensive.

The bees are producing well this summer and the price of honey is not too bad.  Recent shipments into the US sold for $1.59 per pound for extra white honey which is what is in the Southeast.   But there is this lingering problem of high winter losses.  He says these can be traced to the varroa mite and other parasites of the bees which are becoming harder and harder to control.  Rudiak hopes they can come up with some kind of scientific solution to their over wintering problems so beekeepers all over can successfully winter their bees and not incur such huge losses in the spring. 

Meanwhile spring was a little slow coming and he was always a bit upset when another day of rain and a little bit of wind appeared but finally spring turned on and crops around here for honey production are not too bad.  Rudiak notes the canola bloomed fairly well in the area around Steinbach although not so in other parts of Manitoba.  He says there are about 3 million unseeded acres across the province and that puts a big strain on beekeepers who are trying to make a living.

Rudiak is happy to see there are young people who are taking up the trade.  many start with a few colonies of bees and a lot of them have gone on to fairly large operations and make a full time living off of it.  He notes the industry needs that and wonders if maybe with some younger beekeepers and some changes in their management, the local industry could become self sufficient with their bees.  If beekeepers could make up their losses in early summer, they could have extra colonies of their own to fall back on when they did incur large losses over winter.

Check out the following video where Rudiak takes us inside an active bee colony.