“Sometimes, on a quiet evening, I like to sit quietly and watch the bees fly in and out of the hive. I love working with bees because when I am ‘working’ them it is just me and the bees and I feel like I am closer to and helping Mother Nature.”-Lawrence Bergstrand, beekeeper
Husband and wife team, Lawrence and Debbie, have been managing bees and making honey since 2009. They purchased their first two colonies from a beekeeper in Westbank, BC. They have two apiary yards. The home apiary yard is above Heffley Creek where they get Clover honey from. The second apiary yard is located in the Vinsulla valley where Lawrence’s dad grows hundreds of acres of alfalfa for his cows. From this apiary, they get Alfalfa honey.
“Most people think honey all tastes the same. In reality the taste is determined by what nectar the bees are harvesting,” Lawrence explains. “The Clover is a lot sweeter than the Alfalfa in my opinion. But the Alfalfa has a more earthy, full-bodied taste. People have made many delicious meals such as salmon jerky and mead with my alfalfa honey. Both are premium grade honey with no artificial flavoring added. I sell my honey as raw and pure honey. We only remove the wax cappings of the honey cells and then strain it and bottle it.”
Working with bees has its challenges. The almost microscopic Varoa mite can weaken the hive so requires monitoring and treating. Another issue is the increasing demand for honey bees for pollinating certain crops because it increases the crop yield substantially. The weather is also a factor. According to Lawrence, beekeeping requires constant care:
“One year we had a short winter, then it really warmed up and then went to minus 20 degrees for months. I lost all of my hives except one! It took me years to recover.
Colonies require weekly checks during the summer months to assess colony health, assess the strength of the colony and to add more ‘honey supers’. These are special boxes that beekeepers use to take the honey away from the hive without hurting the hive, or if the colony is running out of space.
If bees don’t have enough space, the bees make a new queen. They slim down the old queen so she can fly and then she leaves with half the colony to find a new location. BAM! The beekeeper is down half a hive (that’s about 25,000 bees) just because he wasn’t assessing his hives enough. Definitely a hard lesson to learn! These escaping bees and old queen don’t travel very far and rest while a few ‘searcher’ bees go out to seek a new place. They all can be caught by a beekeeper if they are called in time and if accessible.”
You can support bees in your area by planting ‘bee friendly’ plants, providing bees with a fresh water source and being careful with insecticide applications. You can also support a local beekeeper by buying local honey!