News / Ottawa

Ontario beehives feel the sting of cold, rainy summer

Beekeepers report large drops in honey production — some as high as 50 per cent— thanks to colder temperatures and excess rain, which washes away nectar.

A beekeeper wears a protective suit as she tends to the two dozen hives that make-up the honey producing operation on her rural Ontario property.

Graham Paine / Torstar News Service Order this photo

A beekeeper wears a protective suit as she tends to the two dozen hives that make-up the honey producing operation on her rural Ontario property.

A wet, rainy summer has hit Ontario's beehives hard.

Beekeepers are reporting a dramatic drop in honey production following an unusually cold and rainy summer, with low temperatures preventing the pollinators from getting out of their hives and doing their jobs.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Ontario Beekeepers Association, nearly 60 per cent of beekeepers across the province reported seeing a 50 per cent reduction in honey compared to last year.

The trend was found both in small beekeeping projects with fewer than 50 colonies, as well as larger operations that boast more than 5,000 colonies.

Plants don't yield a lot of nectar — a sugary fluid collected by bees to make into honey — in cold temperatures, according to association president Jim Coneybeare.

Generally a minimum of 20-25 C is required for plants to produce nectar, and for bees to leave the hives to collect it, he said.

"Throughout August for instance, I don't know if we saw a 25-degree day," he said, adding that significantly rainy periods in spring and summer also washed away most of the nectar.

Last year, Ontario produced over 4,000 tones of honey worth nearly $30 million, according to provincial data. The production was a slight decrease from the previous year as well, but last year it was due to too much dryness.

Bad weather also affects bee population, as the queen bees are less likely to get out and mate.

Coneybeare, a beekeeper himslef and owner of Coneybeare Honey just outside of Guelph, said the market will see less honey from Ontario— but it may not necessarily translate into a price hike.

"Western Canada and Quebec normally produce more honey than Ontario," he said. "This will affect individual beekeepers more, who are going to see a reduction in a paycheque, so to speak."

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