Bee Yard in Manitoba

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The Bees and The Beekeeper

Who Are the Bees?
We have some Italian (orange bee) and Carniolan (grey bee) blood, but we are now considered local, meaning that we have been in Manitoba for a very long time. We are well-adapted to survive the harsh winters. But things are changing a lot lately. Hard winters are not longer our only concern. We are now under attack by imported parasites. Our beekeeper must also select us for our "hygienic abilities". This term describes a natural behaviour shown by some of us to brush off those parasites; the varroa mites (more about them later). We are generally gentle, easy to handle, and very productive. The size of our colonies varies quite a bit. Our numbers are small during the winter months, then grow quickly through spring to over 120,000 bees in summer.
Our world is very different from yours. You wouldn't recognise it as seen through our eyes. For instance, we can see ultraviolet color, but we can't see red. Seeing ultraviolet light waves is very essential to help us locate flowers. They all look ultraviolet to us instead of red, blue, yellow or white that you see. We also have three eyes that are specially adapted to see in the dark, which is very helpfull when we work inside a hive.

The Experienced Beekeeper

And Who is He?
Hello! My bees know me as 'Gerry' or 'Old Bear' depending on their mood, I am a honey producer in the West Interlake region of Manitoba. I have been an apiarist for most of my life. Fact is, bees started buzzing in and around my head without warning half a century ago when my brother-in-law offered me the task of caring for his four hives.
Back then, I had a herd of milking goats and I saw honey as a good addition to my cheese production. Seizing the opportunity, I loaded the four hives into my car and drove back home with thousands of bees frenetically crawling on the windshield. It was a memorable experience for a would-be beekeeper. Was I scared? No. Did I lost many bees? No. Did I got stung? Nope. Okay, maybe just a few times, but I don't really remember it.
Since then, we've come a long way, my bees and I. It's true that beekeeping is becoming more difficult, expensive, and time consuming. Our bees face many new perils, There are new parasites, such as varroa mites and their load of viruses. If left unchecked, varroa mites can detroy a beehive is just one year. There are also new pesticides such as the infamous neonicotinoid-based poisons now commonly used almost everywhere. The list goes on and on, but despite all the challenges, we beekeepers keep doing what we do best--taking care of our bees. What can I say, that's who we are.

My Bee Yards

Compared to others, my bees are quite lucky. They live among the natural mixed-grass prairies bordering Lake Manitoba. It is a landscape of marshes, bush-type forests, and meadows that was once a prime habitat for roaming buffalo herds. The bees find here an abundant supply of wildflowers for their pollen and nectar needs. The season starts with willow and Manitoba maple in the early Spring and ends with the goldenrod bloom in September. In between, they have access to flowers such as aster, coneflower, wild rose, and wild mint. There is also a profusion of chokecherry and saskatoon bushes.
I should mention a few bee-friendly naturalised plants. The Puritans found dandelions to be so useful that they brought them along to the New World, Dandelions are one of the earliest and most abundant flowers to bloom across the prairies. The generous little flowers provide bees with a profusion of pollen and nectar for a high-energy boost to the early spring hives.
Many other plants are good for domestic and wild bees as they produce a high flow of nectar. Sweet clover is the ultimate example. Alfalfa, red clover, and sainfoin are also very sought after.

Beehives in Canada

Buffalo Country Apiary
PO Box 649
Lundar, MB R0C1Y0
Phone: (204) 762-5523