While the dead of winter may seem an odd time to be thinking about bees, it’s actually the perfect time.
Even the bees are out right now, on a warm day, on “cleansing flights” (so they can do their business away from the hives).
Just so, the Central Cariboo Beekeepers Association is hosting two events this upcoming week, one for those interested in taking up beekeeping, and their annual AGM.
On Jan. 23, beekeeper Diane Dunaway, the regional apiary bee inspector, will be leading a “Look Before You Leap! What it takes to keep bees” information season at 7 p.m. at the Williams Lake Library.
The session will help those thinking about taking up beekeeping with the basics; what they need to know before committing to keeping a colony of bees.
“We’re trying to help everyone, so people can make more of an informed decision if they want to get into beekeeping,” said Dunaway.
While in recent years there has been increased interest in beekeeping, she said that as many as 75 per cent of new beekeepers stop within the first two years, abandoning bees and equipment, because they’re not aware of the commitment it takes to keep the bees.
The session will talk about equipment, how bee stock orders work, beginner hives, and the municipal bylaws wannabe beekeepers need to take into consideration — even the cost of keeping the creatures.
“If you take it slow and maybe take a year just to observe, it will set you up for success,” said Dunaway, adding that if you are looking to help the insects you can also look into planting bee-friendly flowers or changing what pesticides you are using.
“You don’t have to be a beekeeper to actually make a positive impact on the local pollinator population,” she said.
Still, despite the commitment, there are plenty of upsides to keeping bees, she adds.
“It’s a lifetime of learning. They are the second most studied insect in the world, so there’s a ton of research so it can be fascinating that way. There are all sorts of directions you can go as to why you keep bees: some just want them because they enjoy them, some people want them for honey and some want to get into the hive byproducts.”
For those who come to the info session on Tuesday and decide beekeeping is for them, Dunaway invites them to the Central Cariboo Beekeepers Association’s AGM on Saturday, Jan. 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Cariboo Arts Centre.
During the annual meeting and potluck club members will be discussing club business as well as placing orders for their bees. In the future, Dunaway will also be leading a weekend course in beginning beekeeping.
“They’re a pretty unique little creature. They are lovely and it’s a really lovely pastime,” she said.
This year has been particularly tough for beekeepers in the area, said Dunaway, as the wildfires have also taken their tolls on the bees.
“Everything is timing. Their life cycle was affected by that; they weren’t flying during the fire.”
Movement restrictions kept beekeepers from their hives while smoke and heat not only kept the bees in their hives, but it also prevented wildflowers from blossoming with the nectar needed to create an abundance of honey. Dunaway has hopes that fireweed will help the nectar supply in the coming year, but even that depends on getting moisture at the right time.
Dunaway herself has 40 colonies of bees and runs a business: Bee Happy Honey.
This year, she said she didn’t draw honey from any of her hives — normally she’ll draw about 100 pounds of honey per hive.
Others, she said, reported getting only 10 to 20 per cent of their regular take.
While some who lost hives to the fires have been able to get compensation from agrirecovery programs, those faced with the soft effects, like honey producing, have had a harder time.
“Beekeeping is not for the weak of heart,” she said.
Still, the positives do make up for it.
“There is a fairly steep learning curve, but it is super rewarding and you’ll be in awe the rest of your life.”