This year’s cool spring may mean a late start to the pollination season in the Central Okanagan, according to Brad Ingram, a West Kelowna beekeeper. He expects to send out hives by mid-April or later and predicts he will not have enough hives available to pollinate each orchard requiring them.
Ingram cites factors such as the parasitic varroa mite which feeds on honeybees for why he’s heard of additional hives being lost in Western Canada.
These losses are creating a dilemma for Okanagan fruit growers who need beekeepers like Ingram to ensure they have an abundant crop yield. While there have been some key operators who have retired or quit the business, bringing bees from outside the area is a viable option.
In fact, Ingram has almost sold out his nucs (nucleus colonies). Selling bees is his primary source of revenue over pollination and many end up going to Alberta to replace their winter losses.
Though wild bees can aid in pollination, it isn’t necessarily sufficient for commercial crops. Therefore, there is an increased demand for more commercial pollinators in the Okanagan.