Fresh­wa­ter bee farmer ‘beel­ieves’ NL in­te­gral to fight­ing pop­u­la­tion de­cline

The Compass - - Front page - BY CHRIS LEWIS THE COM­PASS edi­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

The world­wide bee pop­u­la­tion has seen a sig­nif­i­cant de­crease as of late, but G&M Farms in Fresh­wa­ter is do­ing its part to help coun­ter­act that.

Ger­ard Smith, who was born and raised in the com­mu­nity, has been rais­ing bees on his farm for the past four years, af­ter spend­ing sev­eral years at it in Nova Sco­tia.

G&M Farms is cur­rently ren­o­vat­ing their build­ings to house more bees with state-of-theart tech­nol­ogy to get the most out of their bees, while keep­ing them happy at the same time.

Smith’s fa­ther was also a bee farmer, and Smith says it’s some­thing of a fam­ily busi­ness — one that he’s more than proud to be a part of.

“It’s a process. There are some good days, great days,” said Smith, “but then there are hard days, too. Like any­thing, I sup­pose. But I love it, and it’s what I’ve al­ways wanted to do. Work­ing seven days a week at this farm just makes me happy, so it’s never felt like work.”

The farm pro­duces, as one would ex­pect, honey. How­ever, they also sell can­dles made of beeswax from the hives and of­fer cour­ses in sum­mer on the se­crets of bee­keep­ing. The course con­sists of two 10-hour days of hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence, where stu­dents learn how to prop­erly handle all types of bees in a nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment and ac­quire all the nec­es­sary skills for bee­keep­ing.

With this train­ing un­der their belt, peo­ple can go about set­ting up a small bee farm in their own back­yard. G&M Farms also pro­vides all the nec­es­sary equip­ment for up and com­ing bee­keep­ers, which they build and man­u­fac­ture on the farm.

Smith says that bee­keep­ing as a hobby can re­ally help fight the de­clin­ing global bee pop­u­la­tion.

“Even a small hive in your back­yard can be re­ally ben­e­fi­cial,” ex­plained Smith. “That one hive can have a lot of bees — queen bees can lay up to 3,000 eggs a day, un­der the right cir­cum­stances — so be­ing able to keep track of that many bees so eas­ily can do a lot for the bee pop­u­la­tion.”

The de­cline in bees world­wide, known as Colony Col­lapse Dis­or­der, can be at­trib­uted to sev­eral things, in­clud­ing pes­ti­cides, fungi­cides and an­tibi­otics, cli­mate change, or small pests that spread dis­ease be­tween bees. Four of the ma­jor pests that are known to con­trib­ute to these dis­eases are tra­cheal mites, small hive bee­tles, wax moths and var­roa mites, which are con­sid­ered to be the No. 1 en­emy of bee­keep­ers world­wide.

That is, ex­cept for in New­found­land.

For that, bee­keep­ers in New­found­land can thank some­thing known as the im­por­ta­tion ban.

Ban ben­e­fits

The im­por­ta­tion ban makes it il­le­gal to im­port hon­ey­bees or bee-re­lated prod­ucts into the prov­ince with­out a proper li­cence. Any bees that are im­ported are quar­an­tined for 12 months and in­spected on a daily ba­sis.

Dur­ing in­spec­tion, the bees are searched to en­sure they do not carry any dis­eases, such as the black queen cells virus, chronic bee paral­y­sis or de­formed wing virus. They are also in­spected to make sure they are not car­ry­ing any dan­ger­ous pests.

The im­por­ta­tion ban is some­thing bee­keep­ers across the prov­ince fight to main­tain, and it is be­cause of the ban that New­found­land has such a healthy bee pop­u­la­tion, de­spite the cold cli­mates and short honey har­vest­ing sea­son.

“Bees con­trib­ute to a third of our food sources,” Smith told The Com­pass. “I don’t think many peo­ple re­al­ize that. If all the bees were to die out, it would have a very, very big im­pact on the way we live our lives, right down to the foods we eat. Bees sur­viv­ing means us sur­viv­ing.”

G&M Farms has spent a lot of time and money into mak­ing sure they are able to main­tain a top-notch bee­keep­ing fa­cil­ity.

Smith has pur­chased var­i­ous tech­nol­ogy to help main­tain happy, calm, pro­duc­tive bees on his farm. Some of this tech­nol­ogy in­cludes queen in­sem­i­na­tion de­vices that al­low him to pick and choose traits from some of the best bees, ul­ti­mately mak­ing hives full of bees bred to work as hard as they can.

“We care a lot about the bees here. We’re deal­ing with thou­sands and thou­sands of bees, and so this tech­nol­ogy lets us re­ally keep con­trol over how our bees act. You don’t want vi­o­lent or an­gry bees, so if you end up with an an­gry queen, this tech­nol­ogy makes it so that we can pinch that queen, and get a new queen for that colony with bet­ter traits. The other bees in the hive will act as she does, so this small change makes a world of dif­fer­ence when it comes to han­dling them,” ex­plained Smith.

G&M Farms is cur­rently work­ing on some up­grades, in­clud­ing a new room to house sev­eral bee colonies at a time.

Smith looks for­ward to of­fer­ing more bee­keep­ing cour­ses on the farm, and ul­ti­mately adding to the bee pop­u­la­tion and do­ing his part to fight the cur­rent colony col­lapse.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

Some nurse bees on G&M Farms draw­ing out some queen cells, and feed­ing queen lar­vae.

CHRIS LEWIS/THE COM­PASS

Ger­ard Smith wanted to be a bee farmer his en­tire life, and is proud of what G&M Farms has ac­com­plished thus far.

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