Haida Gwaii sweet for bees (and beekeepers)

  • Aug. 7, 2013 11:00 a.m.

by Jane Wilson–Haida Gwaii is one of the few places in the world not looking at a crisis in its bee populations. The Canadian Honey Council recently reported that Canada has lost 35 percent of its honey bee population in the last three years, but the bees on Haida Gwaii remain perfectly healthy and we are one of the few places left in the world where that is the case, said Tlell Honey Bee Product’s owner Terry Penner . “That’s why I keep bees here because there is no problems,” said Ms Penner, who owns the honey business with her husband, Damon Hargreaves. “We’re very special here on Haida Gwaii, we don’t have mites, we don’t have the diseases. Nobody has kept bees here for at least 10 years so there’s none of the problems that are going on out there.” Ms Penner said there are many reasons why bee might be struggling in other parts of the world, including mites, fungicides, pesticides and diseases. She attributes the spread of disease to some common beekeeping practices. For instance, moving large numbers of bees to one area for a particular crop, “especially down in the states, they’ll move them all for the almonds and they’ll take every bee, so even if this guy doesn’t have any diseases, you move them all together and now they’re all around each other so all the diseases get passed around.” The Haida Gwaii bees are safe right now, said Ms Penner but people need to be careful what they spray in their gardens, as pesticides and fungicides are not good for the bees. Ms Penner said products like Round Up are also very hard on the honeybees, and all pollinators. People who want to keep bees here need to be careful also, she said. “If people want to keep bees here, that’s great but please don’t bring a hive of bees to the islands, we’ll be able to get the bees for them from our stock in a couple of years, or we bring them in from New Zealand or Australia.” Ms Penner said there are package bees, that come without the comb and are mite free. “That’s why our business has taken so long to grow,” she said, “because the bees are building their own wax, I’m not bringing wax in from anywhere in case it’s tainted.” Eventually Ms Penner hopes she can sell her bee stock back to the mainland, but it will take some time until that happens as she is not importing hives, in order to keep the Haida Gwaii bee population pristine.