Beekeeper busy as hives pollinating shortage in central Okanagan orchards – Kelowna News

Cindy White

It’s busy being in the bee business, just ask Brad Ingram.

“It’s been a busy season,” says Ingram, owner of Okanagan Beekeeping Supplies. “A lot of beekeepers, commercial beekeepers, have started retiring in the Okanagan.

“So the press is there as far as the producers go. There have been many calls this year.

Among those retiring are Kaye and Bob Chisholm of Brainy Bee on Valley Road. They return to Saskatchewan after 22 years in the valley, but have no one to take over the orchard pollination business.

“No, we have a girl here and she’s helping but she’s not interested in continuing at the pace we were doing,” Kaye said.

Ingram is in a similar situation. No member of his family wants to take over when he’s ready to retire and he admits it’s a lot of work.

This could be cause for concern. Many orchards depend on commercial beekeepers like Ingram and the Chisholms to deliver hives in the spring to ensure their crops are properly pollinated.

“It’s absolutely time for beekeepers,” says Alan Gatzke of Gatzke Orchards in Lake Country.

He notes that there is a very short window when the flowers are open and the bees are an integral part of a good harvest.

“Without hives placed in the orchard, there is usually a little harvest. Bees aren’t the only things that do pollination, but they do the biggest load of it. »

Gatzke is lucky to have a neighbor with beehives, so he doesn’t have to depend on commercial beekeepers. His property also benefits from a large number of native bees visiting his trees as it is close to the forest.

Others aren’t so lucky. If they fail to hire someone like Ingram, there are few other options. There are plenty of backyard hobbyists, but they are generally not interested in moving their bees to orchards.

Another concern this year is the impact of varroa in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It killed millions of bees. In previous years, some orchards brought in beehives from Alberta, but Gatzke has yet to see any evidence of that happening this spring.

Until more people decide to get into the bee business or growers find other ways to pollinate their crops, Ingram expects his phone to keep ringing.

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