This spring season has been particularly rough for beekeepers in Canada as harsh winter weather combined with a parasite infiltration has killed millions of bees in the country.
Stephen Crawford, a beekeeper in rural Quebec, has lost about eight million honeybees alone– just as honey producing season is slated to begin.
“Before the loss, I had 150 hives, now I am looking at maybe 20 hives, and not necessarily 20 strong hives,” he told CTV News.
Crawford blames a parasite known as the Varroa destructor. It latches on the backs of adult honeybees and feeds on its bodily fluids. The mites then reproduce in the larvae of developing bees.
The parasite is known to kill entire colonies if not treated.
In Ontario, a recent study from the Ontario Beekeepers Association indicates about 70 per cent of beekeepers in the province suffered “unsustainable losses” over the winter.
About 43 per cent of these beekeepers blame the weather.
“Between the long, cold winter that we had, and the horrible summer that we had last year with wet, rainy weather, it compiled into just a perfect storm for winter losses,” said James Murray, a beekeeper near Sharon, Ont., about 58 kilometres north of Toronto.
Beekeepers in Ontario have asked for financial assistance from the provincial government to keep them above water until the bee populations can return.
In the meantime, beekeepers are scrambling to find a way to make ends meet until the hives can rebuild.
“If you don’t have the bees, you don’t have the honey, you don’t have the money,” said Crawford.
These loses could cause a rise in the price of honey, but that’s not the only impact to the public. A decline in flower pollination from these bees could result in more expensive fruit.