Lots of buzz around beekeeping in N.L.

‘Would-beekeepers’ must be prepared to invest labour and money, says NLBKA president

Published on April 10, 2017

A beekeeper in Newfoundland shows a frame of honey. Beekeeping is becoming more and more popular in this province.

©Submitted photo

Beekeeping is getting more and more popular in the province, and at the risk of being a buzz-kill, the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Beekeeping Association (NLBKA) is warning “would-beekeepers” that it’s more than a casual hobby.

Catherine Dempsey said this time of year, a lot of people are starting to think about gardening and pollination.

“With heightened awareness about the importance of ‘saving the bees’ for pollination and food security, increasing numbers of people are thinking they should get a hive and set it up in the garden,” she said. “However, if you want to start beekeeping here in Newfoundland and Labrador you can’t just go out and buy a hive and package of bees off the internet and expect honey to pour out.”

The NLBKA said in a news release that beekeeping involves a lot of investment of both labour and money. To help local beekeepers get started, the group holds an information session every year. Dempsey said interest has grown so much since the group formed in 2015 that most in the group are inexperienced — though a few apiarists have been a big help getting people started.

Dempsey said beekeeping in this province comes with unique circumstances, including climate challenges and — on a more positive note — a lack of pests such as the Varroa destructor that plague the beekeeping industry elsewhere in the world.

“We have good potential to expand beekeeping in the province to help with the pollination of blueberries, cranberries and various vegetable and fruit crops. And, we could develop a strong ‘clean bee’ export market. But we need the co-operation of the public and people who want to get honey bees in keeping Varroa and other pests out,” said Dempsey.

She said it’s important for “would-beekeepers” to follow provincial regulations, including getting a start-up colony from a local, established beekeeper.

“It is illegal to bring honey bees or bumble bees from the mainland without a permit from the provincial government. If someone was to try to sneak bees into the province it could be an irreversible blow to our honey bees and native pollinators,” she said.

To avoid such a situation, the association has asked Canada Post to contact them or the provincial government if packaged bees arrive. The NLBKA will also contact private courier companies with the same request.

“We were pleased with the co-operation we received from Canada Post. We hope to remind the staff at all entry points to the province that this could be a serious problem if we don’t all work together. And we will continue to work to support the success of beekeeping in the province,” Dempsey said.