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To bee or not to bee is a question being answered ‘yes’ in growing numbers
The Cowichan Beekeepers Club gained almost half its membership in the last year, reported a very tickled club president Paul Peterson.
“We’ve got so many new people. It’s becoming a phenomenon across North American,” said Peterson who’s been involved with the club for five years, and who’s from Duncan, but keeps honey bees in Cobble Hill.
“We have 20 new members and in total we have 50. That covers the whole Cowichan Valley.”
One of the club’s youngest new members is Duncan’s 10-year-old Grace Thompson.
The Tansor Elementary School student created her first hive this past spring and has been hooked since.
“My dad was working for a man who told him he had bees and we could come see them,” she said.
“The next day, me and my dad went there. It just fascinated me. I was just standing there and they didn’t even notice me. They were flying all around me and through my hair.
“I just wanted to know more about them.”
Grace’s father, Gil, is very impressed with the local bee club.
“They’ve got an amazing mentorship program and Paul has been really great,” he said.
So great, Grace’s focus has turned to lots of volunteering for the club at places like the Cowichan Exhibition and Duncan Farmers’ Market, reading more books on bees, working on successful crops, and making their own honey.
“The funnest thing has been discovering how the bees act and how big the queen bee really is,” Grace said, showing about the size of a Loonie with her fingers.
It’s been a pretty similar fascinating learning curve for Cowichan mother-of-two Charlene Morris.
Morris started beekeeping in 2012.
“It was something I always wanted to do because we had the property to do it, and honey bees just always fascinated me,” she said.
“My friend was taking the beekeeping course here at Malaspina and asked if I would be into it too, so we did it together.”
Morris is also one of the new members of the Cowichan Beekeepers Club.
“My first honey crop was great and I managed to keep my bees alive over the winter. Every week through the winter I would knock on the outside to see if I could hear a buzz, which obviously meant they were alive,” Morris said, estimating start up cost for keeping bees was about $1,000.
That includes the bee suit, a couple hives, bees, a smoker, hive tool, and the “must-have beekeeping course.”
“When this spring came I was so excited to see what they were going to do,” said Morris.
“My colony was strong and I ended up splitting it to make two hives and then I thought I should just leave it be for awhile, but I left it too long and my old colony swarmed, which at the end of the chaos we got them back out of a tree.”
The lesson Morris learned was “climbing up a tree with a ladder in a bee suit (is) not fun. I check them every 10 days, and have learned it’s very important to do that.”
That and, “I’m pretty sure my kids think I am nuts and so do the neighbours.”
Like Thompson, Morris is amazed when watching bees at work, creating a strong colony and protecting their queen.
“It’s so cool to open up a hive and smell fresh honey, and know that your bees are thriving and doing good for the environment, all while making honey. It’s so amazing to see them fly with pollen tucked away in their pollen baskets back to the hive.”
Beekeeping does come with its challenges.
There are certain diseases and mites that affect crops.
“All bees will get mites. In the early days, the mites would just wipe out your bees, so they treated them with heavy pesticides and chemicals,” said Peterson.
“But over the last while they’ve been combining different genes and different queens. They’re able to sense when the mites are in the cells with the young bees.”
“Every beekeeper has a different way of doing things and there’s no set rules,” said Morris.
“I have met some great people through the Cowichan Beekeepers Club, who are always there to answer my panicked questions.”
For more on the beekeepers club, click here.