MONCTON – More than 25 per cent of New Brunswick’s bee population died this past winter, according to a report released Thursday.
According to the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, roughly 3,000 of the province’s 10,000 colonies didn’t make it through the winter.
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Beekeepers say many of the bees died of starvation because they ran out of honey to eat in their hives during the long winter and late spring. It’s devastating news for beekeepers who are already struggling to keep colonies alive midst problems with pesticides and invasive parasites.
“Sometimes it’s parasites but I believe this winter it was mainly the length of the winter,” said beekeeper, Paul Vautour. “It took a long time for spring to come and some of the bees starved, others just started dwindling and they didn’t have the numbers and strength to keep the hives warm and make it through to the warmer weather.”
Vautour said the province can’t afford to lose anymore bees. He says there aren’t enough local bees to pollinate the province’s blueberry, cranberry and apple crops.
“Unfortunately, we have to import approximately 20-25,000 colonies from Ontario and Quebec.”
Vautour estimates the province is losing about $3-million a year because there are not enough bees or beekeepers in the province.
Lois Corbett from the Conservation Council of New Brunswick says other factors are also killing off the province’s valued pollinators.
“We are losing habitat for bees and other pollinators,” Corbett said.”Climate change has a big impact on bees and honey bees and they are susceptible to some mites. So we are in a stress situation that compounds when we have a harsh winter.”
In the meantime, Vautour says the Maritime Beekeepers Association is trying to recruit more beekeepers to help boost the number of colonies in the province.